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 order seeds

What to do

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.

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

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices