1. What was the last book you gifted someone?
I’ll go with three – I gave Craig Thompson’s Habibi to a friend on her birthday last year. I was surprised to find out that she had not read any of Thompson’s books, and I sort of knew she would love it. She did. So did her mom.
I gave another friend Blankets. That was because I met her in winter, and Blankets is a perfect winter book. I believe she liked it as well, though she was a little depressed.
I am supposed to send out a signed copy of Grant Morrison’s Super Gods this week, for a friend, but I have a bad feeling he may not receive it in time, so I may have to find another way to send it.
2. Conversely, what was the last book you were gifted?
On my birthday, I received a book called Erotic Comics Vol 2, by Tim Pilcher and a Romanian graphic novel called Year of the Pioneer, by Andreea Chirica. Also, the first three volumes of XIII, a graphic novel, The City of Shifting Waters by Mezieres/Christin and The Yellow M by Edgar P Jacobs.
(But let me talk about one of them.)
The book on Erotic Comics, I first saw it, the same copy, in Carturesti, Iulius Mall, Cluj in 2009. I flipped through it, wanted to buy it, but I was out of luggage space and did not want to spend any more money either. Saw it again in 2010, but I was on a book-buying hiatus. Carturesti was closed when I went there in early 2011. My friends bought it for me because they know me and were fairly sure I would like it – they were right. And I know it’s the same copy because the people at the store high-fived each other when somebody finally bought the dang thing instead of flipping through the pages. Life works in strange and mysterious ways.
3. What is your constant go-to book? Either as a fix/soul recharge?
I’ve found that I end up reading Preacher and Sandman very frequently, maybe once a year or so. Preacher reads like a beautiful love story with dollops of anti-religion and profanity thrown in. Sandman reminds me every single time that I have so much to read, and much to learn.
The Count of Monte Cristo, because the most perfect story about revenge makes for a dish that never gets cold.
The Mahabharata, in different forms, versions and retellings. Hard to believe how timeless this book is, and how fresh it always feels with every reading.
4. Name one, just one.. Okay, three books that made you tear up.
Ashok Banker’s writing makes me want to tear up his books, but I guess that’s not what you’re referring to. Heh.
Ok fine. A lot of books make me tear up, actually. Why, just reading Hunger Games the other day brought me on the verge of tears at one specific point. Off the top of my head: Oscar Wilde’s Happy Prince. Ian McEwan’s Atonement. The ending of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Garth Ennis’s Hitman and Koike/Kojima’s Lone Wolf and Cub. One specific chapter in the seventh Harry Potter book. A stupid coming-of-age book called Summer of 42 by Herman Raucher. Olga Perovskaya’s Kids and Cubs made me weep bitter tears at age 14, and just thinking about it makes me melancholy now. This is Too Much Information, I am sorry.
5. What is the most embarrassing book you are in possession of?
A first edition hardcover of Michael Crichton’s The Lost World. It’s embarrassing because I paid a shitload of money to buy it when it came out, thinking that it will be a “collector’s item”. 350 Rs, I think, an insane amount of money for someone in Class 10, and I still cringe at the number of excuses I gave myself when coughing up the money at the counter.
I did not even like reading the fucking thing.
6. Say there was only one library that existed in the world, with every single book ever written – and it burnt down, which three books would you save for mankind?
Ugh. I should not answer this. My brain shuts down with scenarios like this, and I cannot think of the answers right away. Even if I answer them now, somehow, tomorrow morning I’ll wake up and curse myself for not choosing that instead of this. Also, I have a feeling that I will select these books based on the assumption that I have to decide what knowledge has to be carried forward in a world sans learning, and I am not sure if that was your intent.
But ok, I will play.
The collected works of William Shakespeare. Such a world will need entertainment, comedies, drama, dramedies, tearjerkers. No one better than the Bard.
A Science book. The Origin of Species, off the top of my head, just because it has a lot of answers that can bitch-slap religious nutjobs.
A book about books. Maybe Chip Kidd’s Volume One, which makes you ache inside and long to touch a physical book.
For the record, I hate this question.
7. Ever made friends in a bookshop?
Yes. A specific one that has lasted – I saw a guy in Best Book Stall, Hyderabad who had a pile of comics to sell. Asian-looking, brusque, speaking Hyderabadi Hindi like a pro. At one point, Ahmed sir, the proprietor just stood aside and let the two of us decide which ones I was buying directly off him, and which ones he would ultimately put for display eventually. The guy turned out to be the owner of the most famous Chinese restaurant in Hyderabad, Blue Diamond (if you’re ever in Hyderabad, take an auto, say ‘Blue Diamond, Basheer Bagh, near Lal Bahadur Shastri stadium’. Try the Cantonese chicken soup. The Bhutan chicken. Chicken, bamboo shoots and mushroom noodles. And tell Chun that Satya says hi, and that I’ve got some things he may get later this year). I was a semi-starving student back then, and went to the restaurant a few weekends later. He took me to his room upstairs, where I stood gasping at a pile of comics scattered around tables and shelves. He brought me some dumplings and noodles and let me be for a few hours. We occasionally call each other from random bookshops in different parts of the world and crow about new acquisitions. We are like that only.
7. a) The most interesting conversation you’ve had in a bookshop?
The one with Ahmed sir, where we talked about my buying 90 years of bound Punch magazines. It took him about 30-odd minutes to convince me that I should not pay him my money. He talked about some of his other regular customers, and how he does not want me to end up like them, buying books just to own them. Sometimes, I think he knew me better than my friends did.
8. If you witness someone else reading a book, what habit of theirs is likely to piss you off?
Seeing someone reading a book without any discernible reactions, especially when I know it’s supposed to make you laugh or react in some way. My bad habit is that if I see the person reading a book I know, I keep asking “where are you now?” and “what do you think?”. It’s almost like I take their reaction to it personally. Stupid.
9. What was the most bizarre dream you had after reading a book?
I dreamt something really terrifying after reading From Hell the first time. I do not want to remember what I saw in my dream, but it was to do with entrails, Ganesha, living cities and a coach following me through cobbled streets. Brrr.