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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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Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us