Browse a bookshop: Halcyon Books, south-east London

A weekly look at what’s selling around the country

Halcyon Books began as a stall in Greenwich market before expanding into two family-run bookshops in Greenwich and Lewisham. “Our family always had a passion for books,” says the owner Matt Hubbard who recalls selling books on the market stall with his parents. “The Lewisham shop specialises in secondhand art, architecture and design books, and stocks modern literary fiction and classics at £2 each, and children’s and teen books at £1 each. We also have an enclosed garden, seating to read or work at, and delicious homemade cakes.”

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Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott review – Truman Capote’s decline and fall

This accomplished debut novel tells of the great writer’s last years in the voices of the women who once loved him

Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s memorable first novel is a fictionalised reimagining of the later life of Truman Capote, an author whose work so often took factual events and applied to them the techniques of the novel. Swan Song treads that modish no man’s land between fact and fiction, finding resonance in the interplay between what we know of Capote’s life and what we don’t. If, as Capote said, life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act, then Greenberg-Jephcott has constructed a third act for her hero that does him justice, never shying away from presenting him as the preening, bitchy, rancorous alcoholic he became, but also finding ways to show why so many loved him.

Swan Song is related by a kind of occluded first person plural – ...

The Jonathan Cape/Observer/Comica Graphic short story prize 2018 – enter now!

The annual award for emerging cartoonists offers a £1,000 first prize and the chance to be published in the Observer, with previous entrants going on to land book and film deals

Calling all aspiring cartoonists and graphic novelists: the prestigious Jonathan Cape/Observer/Comica Graphic short story prize, now in its 11th year, opens for entries today. Our guest judges in 2018 are the novelist (and comics fan) Michel Faber (The Crimson Petal and the White, The Book of Strange New Things) and the cartoonist Posy Simmonds (Tamara Drewe, Gemma Bovery). The winner will receive a cheque for £1,000 and his or her work will appear in the Observer in print and online. The runner-up will receive £250 and have their work published online.

It’s worth remembering that several past winners, and some runners-up, have gone on to land publishing deals, among them Stephen Collins, ...

Darren McGarvey: ‘I have more respect for politicians than my work suggests’

He was better known as the rapper Loki, until his book about poverty won this year’s Orwell prize. Here, he talks about losing his mum, finding his voice and living with fame

• Read an extract from Poverty Safari: ‘It’s time to demand more of ourselves’

The author, rapper and activist Darren McGarvey, 34, was raised in Pollok on the south-west side of Glasgow. In his first book, Poverty Safari, which is being republished by Picador next month, he describes in unflinching detail the realities of growing up poor in Britain and sets out to challenge the various ways in which poverty is represented in the media and on both sides of the political divide.

In one of the book’s most devastating chapters, McGarvey recalls the violence he experienced at the hands of his alcoholic mother, who died from cirrhosis when he was 17 and who, he later discovered, ...

Posh Boys: How the English Public Schools Ruin Britain – review

Robert Verkaik comprehensively illustrates the stranglehold the public school system still has on Britain

Robert Verkaik could hardly have picked a better time to publish this. One notorious posh boy (Eton, Oxford) exits Her Majesty’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, another (Charterhouse, Oxford) arrives to take over. No surprise there, but the nation, or the 93% of it that did not go to private school, is left wondering again how this crony class of bought privilege and vicious self-interest has managed to hold on to the reins for so long. Not least when – from Balaclava to Brexit – they haven’t run things very well.

Of course, it may be that the grockles and plebs are not very bothered. In his fascinating, enraging polemic, Verkaik touches on one of the strangest aspects of the elite schools and their product’s domination of public life for two and a half centuries: the acquiescence ...

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh – caustic and acute

The 2016 Booker nominee’s fable about a New Yorker avoiding life through drug-induced sleep hits its targets with pitiless black humour

When the US author Ottessa Moshfegh was shortlisted for the 2016 Booker prize with Eileen, a slow-burn psycho-noir narrated by an unloved prison clerk, she let slip that she wrote the book with help from a guide called The 90-Day Novel – a calculated lunge for mainstream success following McGlue, her lauded but commercially disappointing debut set among sailors in 19th-century Zanzibar. “I needed to write something that was going to be reminiscent of the crap that people are used to … How do you expect me to make a living?! I’m not going to be making cappuccinos. I’m fucking brilliant!”

Potentially a Ratner moment (she later said it ruined her chances of winning), the admission stoked the renegade aura of a writer who divides ...

Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations – review

With remarkable access to officials and reports, Ronen Bergman’s revealing book lays bare Mossad’s kill operations

In January 2010 Israeli agents converged on a luxury hotel in Dubai: their target was Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, an arms supplier for Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip. The mission involved 27 operatives of the Mossad secret service who were posing as tourists or tennis players. The hit team and their watchers flew in from different European airports using false passports. Communications were routed via Austria to avoid surveillance. Mabhouh was killed in his room using a paralysing drug and his body left to be discovered by hotel staff the next day.

The snag was that the killing exposed the Mossad to global scrutiny – and angered an Arab country with a record of quiet cooperation with Israel. CCTV caught the agents changing disguises and stalking their prey – seen as ...

The Man in the High Castle’s SDCC 2018 Panel Teases a New Resistance – and a Premiere Date!

The Man in the High Castle will return on October 5th…and it’s already been renewed for a fifth season! The dystopia takes place in a timeline where the U.S. lost World War II, and was subsequently divided between a Nazi Annex in the East, and a Japanese colony in the West. The show hosted a lively panel at San Diego Comic-Con featuring actors Alexa Davalos, Rufus Sewell, Stephen Root, and Jason O’Mara, and executive producers Isa Dick Hackett and Dan Percival, showed an extended clip of Season Three, and discussed the difficulties of creating alternate timelines.

I’ve rounded up some panel highlights below!

  • Apparently the Nazis have learned they’re in a multi-verse..which means there are more worlds to conquer. Not good.
  • Rufus Sewell’s Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith has to become even more dedicated to his Nazism, because “there’s no retiring from the Reich.”
  • Meanwhile, Stephen Root said that ...

Arthur Curry Gets the Worst Pep Talk Ever in First Aquaman Trailer

Aquaman trailer, Jason Momoa

You’ve been waiting. Are you ready for the first Aquaman trailer?

In case you were wondering, Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison are his parents, so that’s two poorly-adjusted well-loved kids Jango Fett is responsible for:

That’s… a lot of CGI creatures. But it’s pretty! And Patrick Wilson makes for the oddest ice blonde you’ve ever seen.

Watch Billy Batson Shazam! For the First Time in New Trailer

Shazam! trailer, Zachary Levi

San Diego Comic Con brought the very first Shazam! trailer to the Warner Brothers panel, and it’s every bit as delightful as one could hope.

This is charming as all get-out:

Zachary Levi looks like he’s having all the fun you’d expect to have as a kid-turned-superhero. The film’s sense of humor is on-point, and it’s thankfully not awash in the usual DC movie palette of gray, gray, and more gray.

Shazam! is coming to theaters in April of 2019, so we won’t have long to wait!

The Godzilla: King of the Monsters Trailer is the Godzilla Movie We Deserve

Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer SDCC 2018 Mothra Rodan King Ghidorah

So, um, did you ever think a Godzilla movie would make you tear up? Because there is something surprisingly powerful about the first trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, screened at San Diego Comic-Con. Which is to say, they are going old school, tapping into the deep roots of Godzilla’s character as the hand of nature when humans take things too far.

But not just Godzilla—there’s Mothra, too, and Rodan, and King Ghidorah. This trailer is the real deal.

The official synopsis, from Warner Bros:

Following the global success of Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island comes the next chapter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ cinematic MonsterVerse, an epic action adventure that pits Godzilla against some of the most popular monsters in pop culture history. The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized ...

Dumbledore Sees What He Wants Most in the Mirror of Erised in New Fantastic Beasts 2 Trailer!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, trailer 2, Dumbledore, Mirror of Erised

We’ve got a brand new trailer from San Diego Comic Con for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and it looks like those crimes are really stacking up.

Prepare yourselves for a hard pitch on behalf of wizarding fascism:

There’s a lot going on here, including a pretty clear idea of how events with Grindelwald will unfold going forward. We also get to meet Nicholas Flamel by the end (pronouncing his own name like a true and proper Frenchman, unlike everyone else in the Potter films), which indicates that we might have to worry about him and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone. Newt is being put on a very dangerous path by Dumbledore, but we still don’t know how all the pieces or characters fit together.

And then there’s who Dumbedore sees in the Mirror of Erised. Which he once told Harry was himself holding a pair of woolen socks. And ...

Gabriel Tallent: ‘I follow my inspiration, however difficult’

The US novelist talks about the genesis of his gripping debut and his willingness to lay bare the dark, morally abject corners of life

Gabriel Tallent grew up on the Mendocino coast, California, with two mothers. My Absolute Darling, his debut novel, is the story of an isolated teenage girl who is being abused, physically and sexually, by her survivalist father. Set on the wild coastline where Tallent grew up, and following the feints towards freedom made by Tallent’s heart-piercingly courageous heroine, Turtle, it drew waves of praise when it was published in hardback and became the only literary debut novel to enter the bestseller lists in the US and the UK simultaneously last year.

Was My Absolute Darling always going to be centred on Turtle, your 14-year-old protagonist, or did she come to life in the process of writing?
My initial project was a much more academic, idea-driven ...

Book clinic: which writers can lead me inside the minds of millennials?

Sally Rooney’s confessional style and Joe Dunthorne’s satire should help a teacher understand the ‘avocado generation’

I’m teaching millennials but find it hard to know what makes them tick. Can you recommend millennial writers who would help me better understand my students?
Christina Melia, 47, Paris (originally from Ireland)

Johanna Thomas-Corr, literary critic, writes…
Ah, those millennials. So hard to pin down, aren’t they? Once denoting the generation born c1980-1995, millennial is now often used to mean “digital-era whippersnapper” or “profligate consumer of avocados”. Such is the difficulty of generalising about a generation born at the apex of individualism – but happily, this most overanalysed group is now telling its own stories.

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Andrew Motion on Stisted: ‘That’s where I first began to care about poems’

The former poet laureate on the village perched between Braintree and Halstead where his eyes were opened to the world

“Fair seed-time had my soul,” says Wordsworth in the first book of The Prelude, “And I grew up / Foster’d alike by beauty and by fear.” Quite so. Beauty and fear. The essential, paradoxical ingredients of childhood. One filling us with wonder; the other threatening our hold on the world and hereby making it all the more precious.

When Wordsworth wrote this phrase he was thinking about his birthplace – in Cockermouth, on the northern edge of the Lake District. My own birthplace had no such effect – I now think because the balance between beauty and fear was tipped too heavily towards fear. Fear that my parents, my mother especially, would disappear; fear (of a more circumstantial and less existential kind)of my father’s severities; fear that as time ...

Room to Dream review – a remarkable insight into David Lynch

This hybrid biography cuts between essays from Kristine McKenna and reflections from the great auteur

Kristine McKenna admits at the outset of Room to Dream that she and David Lynch have come up with an approach to life writing “that some might find strange”. This hybrid form combines memoir and biography: each of McKenna’s chapters is followed by one by Lynch on the same years, “having a conversation with his own biography”. Clearly this highlights the subjectivity of experience and the inadequacy of life writing, but it could also compromise a biographer’s freedom to speak frankly about her subject. Nevertheless, Room to Dream is a memorable portrait of one of cinema’s great auteurs.

Lynch was born in 1946; his devout Presbyterian parents moved to Boise, Idaho, in 1955. This “most beautiful golden era” of rock’n’roll, early TV and girls in bobby socks and saddle shoes laid the foundations of the Lynchian universe: “When ...

Days of Awe by AM Homes review – disorienting stories

Usually Homes is merciless at skewering the comedy of disappointment and dread, but her new collection swings between send-ups and soul-searching quests for meaning

Reading AM Homes’s new collection of stories, I’m brought up against that dull old chestnut: do we need to like characters in fiction in order to enjoy reading about them? Well no, of course not, again and again of course not. It’s pretty near impossible, for instance, to like Homes’s collapsed, incompetent, self-pitying couple Elaine and Paul in her 1999 novel Music for Torching – and yet the funny awfulness of their dialogue and their doomed attempts at self-improvement are compelling and page-turning; when their child is taken hostage in a shoot-out, they are sublimely craven. It’s not only Elaine and Paul; it’s their whole set. “Saturday afternoon at the cookout, regardless of the fact that they were all together the night before, they act glad ...

The strange cult of Emily Brontë and the ‘hot mess’ of Wuthering Heights

Brontë was no romantic child of nature but a pragmatic, self-interested Tory. Why is she still adored for her ‘screeching melodrama’ of a novel?

Over this ecstatic high summer, visitors to the Haworth parsonage museum will be able to watch a film that simulates the bird’s-eye view of Emily Brontë’s pet hawk, Nero, as he swoops over the moors to Top Withens, the ruined farmhouse that is the putative model for Wuthering Heights. You’ll be able to listen to the Unthanks, the quavery Northumbrian folk music sisters who have composed music in celebration of Emily’s 200th anniversary. If that’s not enough, you can watch a video installation by Lily Cole, the model-turned-actor-turned-Cambridge-double-first from Devon, which riffs on Heathcliff’s origins as a Liverpool foundling. Finally, Kate Bush, from Kent, has been busy on the moors unveiling a stone. In short, wherever you come from and whoever you are, you will find ...

Full Gas by Peter Cossins review – tactics and the Tour de France

A cycling journalist turns his gaze on the puzzles of the peloton, and falls back in love with the sport

The Tour de France, which finishes in Paris next weekend, attracts more than 10 million spectators to line its near 3,500km route, uniquely comprehensive press coverage for the sport and a TV and online audience estimated to be in the billions. Yet only a tiny fraction of those watching will have the first clue as to what is actually going on.

Yes, there are obviously winners of the 21 stages, and an overall champion is crowned when they reach the Champs-Élysées. But in a peloton of 180 riders, operating in a seemingly chaotic working environment best described as like being inside a washing machine, very few are attempting to win. The vast majority are implementing a dizzyingly fluid set of agendas and allegiances that can combine – often in ...