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.

Reporter Tom Peck with the Titan Arum

What a pong! After a seven year wait, the world's smelliest 'flower' blooms in Cornwall

The Titan Arum is made up of hundreds of flowers and opens four times in its lifetime

Floral swimming cap by The Flower Appreciation Society

iStyle: Flower Power

Forget mastering the perfect buttercream, the fashion for floral arrangements is blooming, says Naomi Attwood

Weekend work: Time to plant dahlias

What to do

Supporters of Imran Khan at a rally in Karachi yesterday

Thousands gather to hear Imran Khan’s hospital bed election address

PTI supporters hope a late surge can lift former cricketer to win Saturday’s vote

A celebrity painted gnome by singer Sir Elton John, prior to being unveiled as part of the RHS centenary celebrations at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London

Welcome gnome: Kitsch garden ornaments are now
allowed in to the Chelsea Flower Show

Elton John is championing their rise to the world’s most famous flowerbeds

Weekend Work: Time to sow leaf lettuce

What to do

Latitude 2013: Five minutes with... Don Paterson

Dundonian poet Don Paterson graces this year's Latitude with his odes.

The 10 Best wedding cakes

Forget love and happiness - these multi-tier marvels are reason enough to get hitched this summer.

Ukip town councillor Peter Reeve is a volunteer loo cleaner for Ramsey's public toilets

As the UK gears up for the polls, what is life like in Britain's only Ukip-controlled town?

And can it clean up in the county elections? We ask councillor Peter Reeve, who volunteered to clean loos to save money for Ramsey

Weekend work: Time to split autumn perennials

What to do

Chic villas in Corfu

The Big Six: from clifftop locations to freshwater pools and rustic interiors

Feeling the heat in Kolkata

Although the temperatures are appetite-suppressing, Kolkata's food scene is legendary

Paulo di Canio celebrates as his side defeat Everton

Sunderland 1 Everton 0 match report: Stephane Sessègnon strike brings reward for Paulo Di Canio’s battlers

Stephane Sessegnon's second goal in a week handed Paolo Di Canio victory in his first home game as Sunderland eased themselves further clear of relegation trouble.

The 10 Best gardens to visit

What could be finer – now that the weather has improved – than a walk around some bucolic beds and borders?

Clean break: The long, cold winter has made my garden tidier than ever

Yes, we know it's been a long, cold winter. And to be quite frank, we're bored of hearing about it. But has any good come of it, asks Emma Townshend?

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Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'