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.

Growing beetroot in straight lines will give you 'the superior self-worth of an established plotholder', says Emma

The plot thickens: It's time to get allotment fever

Beetroots and rocket and mustard leaves and radishes. If only I had the gumption to do it myself, says Emma Townshend

The thrifty ways of the Fifties are hard to shake off

Raise a frugal toast to modern puritanism

Arguments around fracking and HS2 presuppose consumer need. But a tide against materialism would cause bigger shockwaves still

TV review: Through the Keyhole: Who would work in a suit like this?

A long-gone, winning formula gets a revival – and the result is appallingly watchable

Rex FeaturesBank of Pa ’n’ Ma: Unlike in the time of the Waltons, above – possibly TV’s most famous multi-generation occupancy – many people buying their first home today have had help from parents

A three-in-one solution to the rising cost of buying a home

Having three generations under one roof can solve a host of problems, says Chiara Cavaglieri

The Big Six: Burmese beds

Silk drapes, Asian artwork, wooden chalets, luxury huts and private pagodas

Weekend work: Time to divide bearded irises

What to do

Belarus and Russia row over potash raises fear of a trade war

The prospect of a trade war between Russia and one of its neighbours loomed larger yesterday after Belarus ratcheted up the rhetoric against the Kremlin and hinted at further arrests of executives working for Russia's biggest fertiliser company.

Scientists have demonstrated that concerns over money can lower your IQ

Too broke to think straight? How money worries can dent your intelligence

People faced with unexpected bill perform worse than they would have done without the financial worry

Is this the last hurrah for modern bookish bigness?

The new Library of Birmingham ticks all the boxes as far as so-called landmark architecture is concerned. Designed by Mecanoo, a star international practice. Slightly wild façade. Even more dramatic central atrium, spiralling up through the building. And at the  pinnacle, a golden ark containing the city’s original 1882 Shakespeare archive room.

Where's the best place to take my family for a beach break in early autumn?

Q. I'm currently perusing holidays suitable for a family of five in mid-September: two adults, twins aged two and an eight-month-old baby. We are looking to travel independently to somewhere quiet and picturesque. A nice little beach is most important to us with safe accommodation close by. We went to Scarborough and loved it, but there is no guarantee we will get good weather. We want a flight no more than two hours with a short transfer. Name withheld, Sheffield

The smell of freshly baked bread can make a good impression on househunters

Make sure your house smells nice if you want to sell it

New survey also reveals the cosmetic flaws that potential buyers are most likely to be able to see past during a viewing

Marian Brudenell

Marian Brudenell: Admired chatelaine of Deene Park

When Michael Heseltine invited the All-Party Gardening Group to visit the arboretum and garden he had developed at his Northamptonshire home, he exclaimed to us, "No one in 150 years' time will care about what the deputy prime minister did or did not do in the 1990s. But they might ask themselves, 'Who created this garden?'"

Greater Manchester Police handout photo of Dale Cregan who is set to die in prison with a whole life sentence for murdering four people after his long-running trial came to an end today

Police-killer Dale Cregan goes on hunger strike

One-eyed police killer Dale Cregan has gone on hunger strike in an apparent bid to be moved to another prison.

The Weekend’s Viewing: British detective dramas come and go, but few are as creepily compelling as What Remains

What Remains, Sun, BBC1/ America’s Stoned Kids, Sat, BBC2

Book review: The Asylum, By John Harwood

“I am Miss Georgina Ferrars  of Gresham’s Yard, London. I am. I swear that I am. And I shall prove it.”

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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'