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.

Sean Lamont (right) celebrates with Tim Visser (left) and Ruaridh Jackson during Scotland’s victory over Italy last weekend

The Last Word: If Scotland back themselves they
could yet upset the Six Nations odds

Goaded by odds of 66-1, they could 'still rise now/ and be the nation again'

Snowdrop season: Can you tell your 'Primrose Warburg' from your 'Spindlestone Surprise'?

The craze for snowdrops continues, with more and more gardens opening in February to show off their collections. I like snowdrops en masse and some of the best are in old gardens where the flowers have been left to their own devices to spread, often in areas some little way from the house. That's how it is at Chippenham Park in Cambridgeshire, which I visited for the first time this month.

Weekend work: Time to sow snapdragons

What to do

Adele receives the Grammy for best pop solo performance

'I'm not crazy' says the Ukrainian journalist who gatecrashed Adele's Grammy acceptance speech

The man who crashed the stage at the Grammy Awards, has spoken out saying “I’m not a crazy guy. I just think differently.”

The Emperor's New Clothes (10/02/13)

Valentine's Day, pah! Commercialised, sentimental fuss. Incurable romantic David Randall begs to differ...

Nectar points: Honey-based skin products worth making a beeline for

(From left to right) 1. Almond coconut milk honey bath, £30.65, Laura Mercier, urbanretreat.co.uk

Tom Peck spreads the love

Scunthorpe: My search for love in the most unromantic place in Britain

Where do you find love in a town with a heart as cold as iron?

Butter is made by churning fresh cream or milk whereas margarine is made of vegetable fats

Start spreading the news - saturated fat 'is not so bad,' says study

US research suggests that margarine might have been more harmful than butter and lard all along

Urban sprawl
Now celebrating 25 years since it first opened for business in the UK on Kensington High Street, Urban Outfitters' idiosyncratic blend of hipster-chic and diffusion labels is a high-street shopping hit and the newest branch is no exception. 469 Oxford Street, London W1
Water fern (Azolla filiculoides): Native to the Americas but has spread to most continents. Thrives in ponds, lakes and ditches

UK bans sale of five 'alien' aquatic plants commonly bought for ornamental garden ponds

This is the first time that non-native plants have been banned from sale in Britain

Since 2001 there have been 140 burials at sea

We commit this body to the deep: Burials at sea declining as 'old salts' die off

In Nelson’s navy, it was  a necessity. In modern Britain, it is perhaps more of an emotional impulse. But whatever the motive, burial at sea carries on, just as it has done for hundreds of years.

1, Cover an entire wall with a Royal Horticultural Society print from Surface View. From £50/ sq m, surfaceview.co.uk

Pretty as a peach

Nature's bounty is the inspiration for an interiors look bound to bring a breath of fresh air to your home. Trish Lorenz steps outside

‘I didn’t come into politics to be popular,’ Suu Kyi tells Desert Island Discs

Listeners tuned into today’s special edition of Desert Island Discs, recorded at the home of Burma’s pro-Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, could hear the excitement of the programme’s famously unflappable presenter Kirsty Young as she introduced the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights campaigner “known in Burma simply as ‘The Lady’”.

How To Be Beautiful: Everything's coming up roses

Given their ancient associations with beauty, it's not surprising that roses turn up in your bathroom cabinet more than any other flower, and in so many forms. In cosmetics, it's a conceptual thing – how many lipsticks, glosses, blushers and primers come with rose-based names, promising velvety, petal-softness and delicate hues?

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

World's most experimental science labs

The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

HMS Saracen

Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

7/7 bombings 10 years on

Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'