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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Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn