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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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 1 May 2015
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before