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.

The spotty laurel, Aucuba japonica

Jolly green giants: How to pick enviable evergreens

Some say every garden needs an evergreen. But which one to choose – the prettiest or the hardiest? Anna guides you through the picking process.

Weekend work: Time to order seeds

What to do

The Sleeping Beauty, English National Ballet, London Coliseum

English National Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty is the best in Britain. Kenneth MacMillan’s production shows off the ravishing dances, with gorgeous costumes by Nicholas Georgiadis and a vivid sense of atmosphere.

Resignation of top Tory lord leaves a stain on PM's 'Ronseal' relaunch

Cameron and Clegg insist coalition is 'steadfast and united'

Chinese journalists go on strike over government censorship of Southern Weekend newspaper

Journalists at a state-controlled newspaper in China have staged a strike in protest against government censorship – the first public demonstration of its kind in more than two decades.

Contrary: Heatwave in Bournemouth in March; April snow in Scotland; flash floods in Berkshire

Weather: Could every cloud have a sinister lining?

So, farewell 2012 and, meteorologically speaking, good riddance, says David Randall for whom our weather is beyond a joke

Can Cameron resist the siren calls of the Tory right?

Inside Westminster

The Business Matrix: Friday 4 January 2013

IAG could avert strike at Iberia

Free-range eggs: Sales of eggs from hens allowed to roam rose again, from £497m to £526m in 2011.

Organic food loses its appeal – but ethics rule at the checkout

Supermarkets have devoted less space to organic food as customers have reined in their spending

Weekend work: Time to get rid of leaves on hellebores

What to do

Rodallega's leaping winner adds to Pardew's concerns

This may not be a happy Christmas for Newcastle. The team who threatened the Champions League last season have turned into something quite different. Last night, they did almost nothing right, and were flattered by their 2-1 defeat to Fulham.

And ... relax: the Siam Spa

When at Bohemia get set for rhapsody

Room Service: Bohemia Suites, Gran Canaria

Diamonds, fur coats and a food bank... all in Osborne’s backyard

Despite its wealth, the Chancellor’s constituency has been affected by the economic austerity

Gyles Brandreth, the society’s patron and a celebrity polymath who has a book out about the Royal Family

How the very civil marriage between Cameron and Clegg brought out Gyles Brandreth's inner luvvie

Our diarist reports some deeply felt remarks by the former Tory MP

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London Zoo (Getty)
charity appeal
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Chris Parrott: I felt a bit lost and quite alone
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A scene from 'Team America: World Police' featuring a puppet depicting Kim Jong-Il
newsTexas cinema to show Team America instead of The Interview
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
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Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
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people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
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A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
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Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
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Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum