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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?

Book Of A Lifetime: Great Expectations, By Charles Dickens

'Great Expectations' was perhaps the first "big book" I really got through at a gallop when I was about 11. Instead of being outside, practising to open the batting for Oz, I began the novel when housebound with asthma in a Sydney suburb of no distinction. I have to say that partway through the book my reading got a fillip when, breathing easier, I saw at the local picture house the magnificent film version directed by David Lean and starring John Mills and Alex Guinness.

In just 30 days, you too can write a masterpiece

Or maybe not. As writers prepare for National Novel Writing Month, Andrew Johnson looks at classics that were knocked out in a few weeks

Last Night in Twisted River, By John Irving

It would seem that publishing novels for five decades and winning a National Book Award (for The World According to Garp) isn't as confidence-boosting as one might imagine. How else to explain the curious Author's Note at the end of John Irving's latest door-stopper of a novel?

Rochester's literary past reveals a great deal about the city

Charles Dickens, champion of the working man and the overburdened woman, would be delighted with the offer each day from 7am to 9am outside the Golden Lion pub: tea or coffee for 49p. I’ll have two, thanks, and keep the change: a boost of caffeine is just what you need to make the most of the city that has been thriving for two millennia – and, within the past year, has moved even closer to London and the rest of the country.

Leading article: Puppet masters

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has acquired an extensive Punch & Judy archive made up of scores of artworks, photographs and books. In some ways the puppet show, with its traditional costumes, the grotesque visages of the characters and the lack of hi-tech tricks, looks like very old-fashioned entertainment. Avatar it is not. But on the other hand the show's bold approach to themes such as domestic violence, child neglect and disrespect for the law might be said to give it a strikingly contemporary feel.

A guide to A-road Britain: A149

Pouring rain one minute, vast blue skies the next, that's normal for Norfolk. Margareta Pagano travels from Great Yarmouth to King's Lynn, passing some of her favourite places in the world

Famous wills: They couldn't take it with them...

The last wishes of some of history's most eminent figures have been released. Kevin Rawlinson surveys their legacies

Bleak House, New Vic Theatre, Staffordshire

Before Bleak House begins, Inspector Bucket appears in the foyer of the New Vic Theatre inviting the public to turn detective and help him solve a murder mystery. We get our bearings with the help of an enlarged map on which are perched tiny, illuminated models, from stately home to slum, of buildings featured in Dickens's novel. Backstage we visit the scene of the crime via glimpses of Krook's rag-and-bottle shop, a glassy-eyed Lady Dedlock staring back at us through a rain-streaked window, Miss Flite's bird-filled garret, and the blood-spattered desk at which Tulkinghorn died. Scrutinising each small scenario, poring over every scrap of spidery writing, hanging on to snippets of information supplied by throaty-voiced actors, the audience clearly enjoyed dipping its collective toe into this piece of immersive theatre.

Dickensian London – alive and well in Kent

A Slice of Britain: Dedicated fans of the great Victorian novelist get into bustles and bonnets for their annual parade in Broadstairs

Album: Laurie Anderson Homeland (Nonesuch)

As the title suggests, Homeland sees Laurie Anderson returning to the familiar territory of her opus magnum United States I-IV, with a series of ruminations and observations upon her native land, in which unashamed intellectualism – references to Kierkegaard, Thomas Paine, etc – is balanced by her dry wit and ironic delivery.

Tim Sturtridge: What The Dickens - England’s great expectations

In the first instalment of this updated Dickens classic our hero starts out as the general dogsbody to a Sunday League outfit.

First-edition books may fetch £15m

A collection of first-edition books, described as the greatest of its kind, is estimated to sell for between £8m and £15m at auction later this year.

DJ Taylor: Back to the 1930s – but this time we're not quite pulling together

In 1931, people queued up to pay their taxes and help cut the spiralling national deficit. These days, we're more likely to worry about our own wellbeing than the country's

Why Dickens was not the family man history would have us believe

A new film exposes the married father-of-10's 13-year affair with a young actress – and his possible love child, writes Arifa Akbar
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In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
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