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.”

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

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

Valentine's Day, pah! Commercialised, sentimental fuss. Incurable romantic David Randall begs to differ...
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
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 23 January 2015
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste