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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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