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.

A microscopic photograph of a fossilised pollen grain

Flowers have bloomed for 240m years

Flowers appeared on Earth 100 million years earlier than was previously thought, according to evidence from ancient fossilised pollen grains.

The aim is to ensure that not a single breeding pair of rats survive to repopulate the island

Dutch police recruit rats to sniff out criminals

The Dutch police are pioneering a new approach to catching criminals, recruiting rats to sniff out crime.

Pretty in pink: Give a rosy glow to the lips, cheeks or eyelids

(Clockwise from top) 1. Fall in Rose Lipstick, £21, lancome.co.uk

Sow long: If you want a beautiful cuttings garden next summer, get those seeds in now

Annual flowers are profligate with their seed. Which is why, with very little effort now, you can collect free supplies to provide next year's flowers. This summer has been superb for both producing seed (plants have grown with tremendous vigour) and ripening it. I had an unusually peaceful session with the small, thin seedpods of larkspur, cracking them open and spilling the hard black seed on to a sheet of paper on the kitchen table.

Flower girls: Christian Dior's ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2014 collection in Paris

Paris Fashion Week: Raf Simons blossoms in the dark to lead Dior down a gorgeous garden path

Alien vines wrap wrists and shoes sprout roots in Paris Fashion Week’s biggest show thus far

A model walks the runway during the Balmain show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2013

As Paris Fashion Week gets into its stride – it’s all about the music...

Balenciaga's spring/summer 2014 show plays out to thumping, bass-heavy and very, very loud beats... but only after four outfits

Goulding judged for over 40 years at The Chelsea Flower Show

Michael Goulding: Flower arranger who served the Queen and nine prime ministers

Michael Goulding was a flower arranger to royalty and to nine successive Prime Ministers and their wives, from Macmillan to Major. They were all interested in flowers: Alec Douglas-Home used to rearrange Goulding's flowers when he left the room; Dorothy Macmillan would bring flowers from Birch Grove for Goulding to arrange – when he got them they were often dead. Margaret Thatcher took a great interest in his flowers, and put his name forward for a Queen's Birthday Honours award.

The Erdem show

London Fashion Week: Lessons in English from Christopher Kane, Giles Deacon and Christopher Bailey

The Englishness of English dress is a very interesting concept, especially as manifested during London Fashion Week. Although maybe it’s the London-ness of London dress, given that most of the star designers come from further afield. Nevertheless they are all the product of the British capital’s fashion schools – Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art dominated today, Christopher Kane and Giles Deacon of the former, and Erdem and Burberry’s Christopher Bailey of the latter.

Jos Buttler hits out against Australia in Cardiff

England vs Australia ODI: Anything is possible for Jos Buttler the fearless

Series still to play for after another thrilling innings from England’s fastest run-maker

Sunset at Montmajour by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh is seen during a press conference at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

Sunset at Montmajour critique: Nature is alive with motion in this magnificent Van Gogh failure

Work is almost religious in the fervour of its making

The 10 Best new perfumes

Fragrances can capture a mood and ease you into a new season. These new scents will help smooth your way into autumn

Missing: my darling Jacqui... the search for a lost tulip

I found the most perfect tulip, says Emma Townshend.  She’s playful and charming and perked me right up – but now I can’t find her anywhere. Somebody help me!

Anna Pavord's A to Z of pests and problems: P is for passageways, pests and pruning

Our green-fingered correspondent Anna Pavord continues her A-Z of horticultural pests and problems standing between you and your perfect garden

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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
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project