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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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University Edible Garden, Leeds – a sustainable garden in the centre of the university, passers-by can help themselves to the home-grown produce
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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz