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Armando Iannucci recently said that the UK falls behind the US  when it comes to female comedy writers. Do you find it to be a male-dominated industry?

Johann Hari: Please, dear novelists, get real

I long to drag them to a rundown estate in Bradford or a climate change protest camp

John Walsh: Using only a fork just doesn't cut the mustard

Few domestic metal objects carry more precarious symbolism for the British than cutlery. Employing the wrong edge of the spoon to drink your soup, holding your knife like a fountain pen, putting a knife in your mouth, shovelling peas onto your fork – these are gaffes that consign you to social perdition, as surely as drinking tea out of the saucer. Adopting the American habit of using only a fork to eat your meal, however, represents a revolution in table manners that's both seismic and deeply unwelcome.

Book Of A Lifetime: Little Dorrit, By Charles Dickens

So conscious of his devoted audience, Dickens might have been pleased to learn that I and quite a few fellow New Yorkers have been devotedly reading Little Dorrit. This mini-craze began when a poet friend heard that the novel was going to be a serialised on TV. He decided that he didn't want to watch it but to re-read it; others of us decided to do the same.

Australia's Miss Havisham: the jilted lover who spent her dying days in a cave

An Australian woman who disappeared 40 years ago and whose remains were found in a remote cave 12 years later has been identified this week as a tragic Miss Havisham figure who had been jilted by her lover.

Mendes beats Scorsese to Middlemarch movie

After 138 years, Eliot classic is finally brought to the big screen

The Twisted Heart, By Rebecca Gowers Canongate £12.99

A Charles Dickens scholar sees life's seamier side

Book Of A Lifetime: The Way We Live Now, By Anthony Trollope

By rights, I ought to loathe The Way We Live Now. It starts with a withering portrait of a woman author writing begging letters to three different literary editors about her new novel. It's unremittingly racist about Jews and respectful to posh people.

Virginia Ironside’s Dilemmas: I feel uncomfortable about my friend's nickname

Dear Virginia,

I have a friend who I met recently called David. He’s really nice, has had lots of girlfriends – and we are getting quite close ourselves – but for some reason all his close friends call him Daisy. It all goes back to some party they went to ages ago at university, when they dressed up as women for a joke. He doesn’t seem to mind this at all, but I feel really uncomfortable and wish they wouldn’t. I can’t stop them calling him Daisy, but feel self-conscious when I call him David. Am I being silly?

Yours sincerely, Tiggy

Victorian diseases: Back from the dead

Charles Dickens knew more than he would have wished about scarlet fever. His son, Charley, was afflicted by it, causing the family to leave Paris hurriedly and return to London in 1847, and it featured in several of his novels. It was a much-feared disease that caused devastating epidemics through the 19th and early 20th centuries, resulting in thousands of deaths.

Leading article: Float like a butterfly

"I only ask to be free" says Harold Skimpole in Bleak House. "The butterflies are free." Dickens's character meant "free" in the sense that these insects are able to fly where they will. But there is another sense in which butterflies are free: it costs us nothing to enjoy their beauty.

Book Of A Lifetime: Our Mutual Friend, By Charles Dickens

I am fortunate enough not to have had the novels of Dickens urged onto me as a child or been required to write about them at university. I encountered them properly in middle age and have re-read them with enormous pleasure since. Our Mutual Friend may not be his greatest novel, but in some ways it is his most compelling. From the opening paragraph, the dark imagery comes straight off the page and into your visual imagination and, as an illustrator, I find it irresistible: the autumn evening closing in, the crazy little boat afloat on the filthy Thames, the strong young woman plying the oars and a ragged, grizzled man, her father, busying himself with something towed in the water behind them. You are some way into the narrative before it dawns on you that it is a drowned body. They are at their evening's work as scavengers of the river.

Rising Star: Gaynor Arnold Author

For the second time in a year, first time author Gaynor Arnold finds herself competing against some of the biggest names in fiction for a major literary prize.

When I'm 64: social worker is literary hit – after 20 years of trying

Debut novel about Dickens makes second literary prize long-list

Drood, By Dan Simmons<br />The Last Dickens, By Matthew Pearl

Here are three unsolved mysteries. How did Charles Dickens intend his last novel to end? Why have we recently had a outbreak of fiction inspired by it? And, perhaps strangest of all, why do we have such an enduring interest in the secrets of the Victorians?

Sally Ledger: Victorian scholar who advanced the study of women writers and recast views of Dickens

Sally Ledger, a leading scholar in Victorian Studies and the Hildred Carlile Chair of English at Royal Holloway, died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage. She was only 47, but already had a list of impressive achievements behind her. This is a cruel loss to her family, but also to the discipline in which she excelled.

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Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas