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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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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
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The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

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Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
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The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
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Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

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Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

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Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
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Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

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Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution