Arts and Entertainment

The idea of The Great American Novel feels like an albatross around the neck of that country’s literature. Sooner or later every white middle-class male writer with any kind of reputation feels obliged to have a stab at it, usually with limited success. Eventually they think it’s time to pack away all the fun stuff like storytelling, energy and plot, and make some big state-of-the-nation address, telling people exactly how things stand in the good ol’ US of A. Interestingly, America’s women writers don’t tend to feel the obligation to grandstand so strongly, and their novels are usually all the better for that.

Weekend work: Time to wake hippeastrum

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Spot the difference: Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
Wild Target: Washington DC’s Rock Creek Park has four times as many deer as it can cope with, say authorities

The deerhunter returns to Washington

The rose gardens and parks of the US capital are under attack and only lethal force can save them from the doe-eyed assailants

Dissident Gardens, By Jonathan Lethem: Book review - insightful look at radical politics in New York

Music looms large for Jonathan Lethem. In the past, citing Walter Pater's dictum that "all art constantly aspires towards the condition of music", he has said that he tries to make his prose "as musical as I can".

The pope has a lamb put around his neck by a woman dressed as a character from the nativity scene at Church of St Alfonso Maria dei Liguori in the outskirts of Rome

Pope visits Nativity re-enactment

First things first: Emma Townshend reveals her gardening New Year's resolutions

Our gardening correspondent's opening resolution is to tidy up. After that, she can get down to her World Cup window boxes and learning how to cloud-prune...

Burgers to Beatles: Bitcoin gains currency offline in the real world

What do a street-van burger, a wedding bouquet and a Beatles album have in common? They're all on a growing list of products shoppers can buy over the counter using the virtual currency Bitcoin.

Look back in awe: The horticultural hits of 2013

Gardeners have a habit of going on about their planting disasters, instead of celebrating their successes, says our green-fingered correspondent...

Anna Pavord: Last-minute gift ideas for the gardening fanatic in your life

If you’ve left your present purchasing to the eleventh hour, don’t fret, there’s often nothing better than a beautifully potted-up set of herbs, or a homemade bouquet garni

Four depictions of elephants as they appear in religion and myth

Elephants are culturally important across the globe

Colin Farrell has revealed that he enjoyed an unusually close relationship late actress Elizabeth Taylor before she passed away in 2011 aged 79

Colin Farrell reveals ‘affair’ with Elizabeth Taylor: 'She was my last romantic relationship'

The actor, 37, claimed he enjoyed an unusual relationship Hollywood icon, who was 40 years his senior

Winging it: The shrill carder bee is thriving in Kent

What’s the buzz? The bumblebee is back!

Conservationists stunned by the insects’ rapid recovery

Maybe it worked? 'Cops off campus' demo passes off peacefully

Barely a police officer in sight as 2,000 student protesters take to London's streets

Flower power: Monty Don in 'Great British Garden Revival'

Great British Garden Revival, BBC2 -TV review

A revolution in the flowerbed as Monty plots to make Britain bloom again

Weekend work: Time to prune trained fruit trees

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British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
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footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
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Frozen out: despite being filmed in Iceland, 'Fortitude' is set further north, in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
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Owen Farrell (in black) is a concern for England after injuring his knee playing for Saracens at Clermont Auvergne on Sunday (Getty)
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Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
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Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
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