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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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Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin