In the Critics this week

William Trevor on V S Pritchett, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst on Dickens, and David Harsent on insomnia.

The Books Essay in this week's New Statesman is by the novelist William Trevor, who pays tribute to V S Pritchett's mastery of the short story form. Pritchett, Trevor writes, "indelibly left his mark on it". He praises Pritchett's "exploration of the human condition", noting that "the unusual as a human quality appealed to him, as mild eccentricity did".

In Books, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, author of Becoming Dickens, reviews The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens , edited by Jenny Hartley. He is as taken with Hartley's editorial efforts as he is with Dickens, comparing her achievement to writing "the Lord's Prayer on a grain of rice". Douglas-Fairhurst notes Hartley's judicious selection from Dickens's correspondence of "a good cross section of Dickens's different epistolary moods and modes". Alluding to Dickens's comparatively early death, Douglas-Fairhurst says "Reading how much he crammed into his life, the only surprise is he lasted that long".

In the Books Interview, Jonathan Derbyshire talks to Jodi Kantor about her new book The Obamas: a Mission, a Marriage. Speaking as much about the First Lady as about the President, Kantor says of Mrs Obama: "She's the worrier in the family. She's often quicker to anticipate problems than he is".

Also in Books: Yo Zushi reviews the late Gil Scott-Heron's The Last Holiday: a Memoir. Zushi is beguiled by Scott-Heron's "delight in telling his story" and his "dazzling command of language". Other reviews: Kate Saunders on The Revelations by Alex Preston; and Leo Robson on The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker.

Elsewhere in Critics: Ryan Gilbey on Carnage; Rachel Cooke on The Fixer (BBC2); poet David Harsent on the reality of insomnia; Antonia Quirke on The Secret Catacombs of Paris (Radio 4); and Alice Gribbin on "Golden Spider Silk" at the Victoria & Albert Museum. PLUS: Will Self's Real Meals.

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“Minoan pendant”: a new poem by Mark Granier

“Yes – I press my nose / to the pleasantly warm glass – / it’s a copy of one I saw / cased in the cool museum”

Yes – I press my nose
to the pleasantly warm glass –
it’s a copy of one I saw
cased in the cool museum –
gold beaten to honey, a grainy
oval dollop, flanked by two
slim symmetrical bees –

garland for a civilisation’s
rise and collapse, eye-dropped
five thousand years: a flash
of evening sun on a windscreen
or wing mirror – Heraklion’s
scooter-life buzzing and humming –

as I step in to browse, become
mesmerised by the warm
dark eyes of the woman
who gives her spiel and moves
softly and with such grace,
that, after leaving, I hesitate

a moment on the pavement
then re-enter with a question
I know not to ask, but ask
anyway, to hear her voice
soften even more as she smiles
and shakes her hair – no.

Mark Granier is an Irish poet and photographer. He is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Haunt (Salmon).

This article first appeared in the 16 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Britain on the brink