Walking into a book store is like stepping into the past. If the museums store the precious works of art, the book stores keep the thousands and thousands of words written across centuries alive on their bookshelves. It takes a curator to scurry up a precious collection of books that enthral a reader. Fact and Fiction Booksellers, a tiny book store in South Delhi was one such entity. There might have been times when you bought a book from a book store where the person at the counter had an expression that suggested, ‘I don’t care if you are buying a book or a piece of gum.’
But as the owner of Fact and Fiction Booksellers said in his article on Daily O, friendships were forged with readers when they engaged in hearty discussions about books and reading across the counter.
Stepping into that haven reminded me of Josh Radnor’s character, Sam Wexler’s various adventures to the book store in the film, happythankyoumoreplease.
Yes, book stores are full of adventures. The simplest act such as brushing your fingers on a beautiful cover, going bonkers with the excitement on finding treasures, running into old friends on the pages of a beloved book and meeting new ones are all adventurous journeys. Just like the little story about the girl whose hands went for the same book as the boy standing next to her and they spent a lifetime together, reading. (This may have happened in a book or could be a real story.) The point is- what Cheryl Strayed did in Wild, you could do too, by stepping into the book store and picking up her book! After all, our bibliophile lives exist in such books.
Findings from Fact and Fiction aka My Adventures at the book store
I found a few books that I had failed to locate anywhere else in Delhi and even on websites that sell books and I found some new ones that I was completely unaware of. Here’s the list:
Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace is the writer that I’ve been meaning to read for years. There wasn’t a place where I didn’t look for his work. Yet, I never came across any of his books. I had neatly put them on my list of books I so dearly want to read but can’t have. Yes, such a list exists. But sun shone over the gloomy autumn and I found the book at Fact and Fiction Book store. Girl With Curious Hair is a fascinating collection of stories, first published in 1989. The book has a range of stories that are equally bizarre and true to the bone in matching up to how we are shaping our reality.
I managed to finish Little Expressionless Animals. Wallace has a way with the narration. He breaks the story into pieces that he won’t stitch for you, but you yourself will and in the last one page, everything will come together and make all the sense in the world. The confusion that he had put you in, will be completely forgotten because you will be blown away by what you discover at the end of the story. His stories are powerful and make you take a look in to your own self. You cannot dissociate the story from your own life. Wallace has his feet deep into the culture that you were raised in and he knows what kind of puppet each one of us is in this over complicated world.
Here is a trailer of this film, The End of Tour based on the conversations between David Foster Wallace and journalist David Lipsky. Although, Wallace might not have approved of a film based on him, it is here and I can’t help but put it on my Watch before you die list.
Poems by Charles Dickens
Now, tell me, is this not surprising for you?
I have been reading Dickens’ work since I was a little kid. First the illustrated, abridged versions and later the complete novels and films followed. For me, reading Dickens meant doing something meaningful with my life. But there I was, standing in the book store in complete shock because I never knew that DICKENS WROTE POETRY!! A moment later, the shock subsided when more people pointed towards the book and said, “I never knew Dickens wrote poetry!”
By then, the shock, ladies and gentlemen, had turned into pride. I was the sole owner of the book of poems by Charles Dickens as it was the only copy left (in that book store and probably in Delhi!). I held onto it tightly afterwards. Though I still remember the chills from the cold stares. Bibliophiles can be the best of friends and the worst of the enemies.
To stop you from sending cold stares across this screen, here is a verse by my beloved literary giant:
“Love is not a feeling to pass away,
Like the balmy breath of a summer day;
It is not-it cannot be- laid aside;
It is not a thing to forget or hide,
It clings to the heart, ah, woe is me!
As the ivy clings to the old oak tree. ”
(From Lucy’s Song)
India In Slow Motion by Mark Tully
Mark Tully is a name that needs no introduction in the world of Indian Journalism. The book was first published in 2002. It interests me because it is from a perspective of a journalist who saw India grow since 1965. The book also has a chapter on the political corruption in Kashmir so there was no question of putting it down. I am eager to know what it has in store for me. In the publisher’s words, the book probes into the heart of Indian experience and argues “that change is possible and that solutions do exist.”
Tales of Twilight and the Unseen by Arthur Conan Doyle
I am just going to go ahead and in Niles Crane’s words, toot my own horn about finding a rare collection of stories. But no matter how much I gloat over this, the truth is that Mr. Singh, owner and curator of Fact and Fiction Book store is the one who is good at finding and storing treasures. I am just excited to read this collection of stories that have been overlooked and sadly forgotten in the world where ‘another Sherlock Holmes adaptation’ is all that matters to the fans. I have been as SHERLOCKED as anyone else since the day I first read Sir Doyle’s works but this set of stories about ghosts, obscure scientific experiments and unexplained phenomena is going to set the bar all too high. I am sure, my dear Watson.
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
I was saving my “I jumped with excitement like a crazy fan girl” moment for the end. I am thankful for the virtual world because it brought me closer to the genius that Neil Gaiman is. His frequent collaborations with illustrator Chris Riddell, his wife & artist Amanda Palmer and his small notes for fans who ask him for writing advice are so precious.
I looked above the soft sky blanket and under the heavy rock mattresses but I could not find a Neil Gaiman book in Delhi. Here, at the book store, I found a copy of Anansi Boys by Gaiman. It was first published in 2005. The copy was probably stacked on the shelves around the same time ( 9 year ago) as the pages, now carrying yellowish tint were still grabbing onto me, refusing to let go.
My friend got the last copy of Fortunately, the Milk, an illustrated Children’s book which is a collaboration between Gaiman and Riddell. Needless to say, I am going to borrow it and read it in public regardless of bus stop judgements.
I also finished 110 pages of Anansi Boys on the bus stop itself ( because DTC buses take forever to arrive!) and giggled along with Gaiman’s classic British humour and crazy imagination! The book follows the story of the Spider God (deceased) and his sons Fat Charlie Nancy and Spider. I am going to say adiós to this long post and get back to where I left the nervous fat Charlie and the flamboyant Spider.
If you’ve read any of the above mentioned books, I’d love to discuss them with you. Godspeed, bibliophiles!