Excursions Of A Bibliophile

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Archive for October, 2016


Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on October 7, 2016

chatwinI came to most of the writers and books I know now through recommendations of better read folks and book reviews in various magazines and newspapers (NYTimes, NewYorker, Paris Review, The Hindu etc). The joy of discovering writers this way is an inherently inferior one. The question is: it is inferior to what? I think it is inferior to the joy of discovering a writer and his work completely unaided, out of blue and when one is not looking for. I have discovered Bruce Chatwin and his writing the latter way – At a second hand book shop in London, one of the numerous Oxfam shops that dot whole of UK to be precise. Standing side by side were three of his books – “What Am I Doing Here”, “The Songlines” and “The Viceroy of Ouidah”. Although I have heard his name before, I had no faintest of ideas as to who he was and what his writing covered. As is my habit, I flipped a few pages of his”What Am I Doing Here” and  the first two essays did me in. Doing me in was an understatement. I was in thrall. Bought all the three. The whole of the following few days I feasted on words: Brilliant essays and some astonishingly high quality travel writing  Eventually I came to his best work and a classic in travel writing “In Patagonia”. I read and re-read his books regularly with a joy that remains undiminished till today and I am certain even in future. Mine was the luck of a habitual second hand book shop frequenter.

Reading ought to be the function of access and serendipity. Without well stocked libraries which are accessible to public how are we going to make this priceless joy of reading and discovering good writing possible? This has to be a job of Govt. No private institution can take this role

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