Saturday 23 February 2013

My Groaning Shelf

Must say, January and February are tough months for bibliophiles like us, both emotionally as well as monetarily. The event to look forward to in January is undoubtedly the biggest jamboree of writers in atleast Asia if not the world. The Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF)has become  a sort of pilgrimage where the literati collect annually in the last week of January to celebrate fine (and sometimes not so fine but  popular) writing  with authors from all over the world (JLF has also  inspired almost every metropolis in the sub-continent including Delhi to have a literary festival of its own!).The festival is  so well organised way that inspite of the huge crowds (which keeps on increasing year after year) the festival has been incident free so far though not controversy free with the proposed Rushdie participation last year and the strong objections to Ashish Nandy’s remarks on corruption this year. But with so many creative people around a bit of friction is expected. Last year, I had the good fortune of spending three wonderful days at Diggi Palace (which hosts the JLF) and managed to attend many sparkling sessions including those by  Gulzar, Pavan Verma, Vinod Mehta, Tarun Tejpal, Suhail Seth, William Darlymple, Prasoon Joshi, Mohammed Hanif and Chetan Bhagat amongst others ( a little names dropping never hurt anyone!). One also has the additional benefit of buying the participating author’s books at the fair and then getting them personally autographed. This year unfortunately I had to give the festival a miss because of some pressing official and personal reasons but it was not an easy decision to skip  and I hope to be back next year.
Then February kicked off with the World book Fair (4th to 10th) at the good old Pragati Maidan. For some reason, which is beyond me, the organisers decided to hold the fair in such a way that we had only one weekend falling during the duration of the fair. The fair has now become an annual affair and I sincerely hope that the organisers take care to organise the fair next year in such a way that we get two weekends to visit the fair. With the fair spread around more than 10  halls it is virtually impossible to visit even 50 per cent of the fair in a single day. Moreover, the weekend also coincided with the annual comics convention (Comic Con) at Dilli Haat and also the Delhi Literary Festival which was launched this year at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Arts. Obviously, I could not miss the comic con with the result we had to give the Literary Festival a miss. The two visits resulted in my monthly budget being hit for a six. (No more book purchasing for the next 3 to 4 months!).The bigger culprit was Comic con where the discounts were low and the prices were high. Still I was able to buy my first Robert Crumb comic (A lot of foreign publishing houses including Fantagraphics participated in the convention this time) and a Captain Haddock toy (Tintin was sold out on day one!) even though I had to pay through the nose for both of these. Also, managed to buy a nice Marvel poster, to add to my collection.
With only one day available for the visit , we headed to Hall no.1 at the World Book Fair. Most of the big boys of publishing were there-Penguin, Random House, Rupa (along with Aleph), Om as well as Roli. While we waited for our jugaad to arrive at Penguin (so that we could get a higher discount) we decided to check out other stalls starting with Random House stall and immediately got ambushed by the heavy discount...flat 40 % off on all titles including my favourite category-graphic novels. Even after exerting a lot of constraint I was down 2 grands in no time.But with a Joe Sacco (The Fixer),  a Collins Rayner (The Road to Perdition) and Nadeeem Aslam’s latest(The Blind Man’s Garden) I really could not complain. Then we picked up some more bargain books and posters from Roli (They had a killer collection from Phaidon but so were the prices!) and then decided to take a peep into Rupa. And thank God for that. Rupa it appears is now distributing Tara books and I was able to gloss over all the beautiful books from this niche publisher based out of Chennai. They come up with amazing looking books but unfortunately they are not easily available (mostly sold abroad) and secondly being a niche category, they are expensive. Still I could not resist buying I saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail which was one of the best art books of 2012. Based on a 17th century English poem, under the genre of trick verse, it is a book which has to be seen/read to really appreciate the hard work and creativity which must have gone into conceiving and printing it.
By the time we reached Penguin, we had already overshot our budget  and unfortunately the book I really wanted to buy (Habibi by Craig Thompson) was already sold out! After Hall no.1 we didn’t have the strength to visit any other stall and began our long walk to the parking in front of gate no.2. Sad that we could not visit other big publishers like Hachette, Pan Macmillan or Scholastic. Maybe next year. For now I have enough supplies on my shelf to outlast the coming three months self imposed exile from venturing near any book shop.

PS:-As I am writing this, I have just received an invitation from Penguin for their annual Spring festival at IHC in March (Control Amir, Control).

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