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.

Weekend work: Time to secure ricketty boundaries

WHAT TO DO

Thieves stole the beehive from a quaint community garden in Norwich shortly before Christmas, police said

Sticky situation: Thieves steal beehive

Thieves have stolen a hive full of hibernating bees from a quiet community garden

Welsh wing George North was the galvanising force in Northampton's win over Bath

The star in George North starts to appear for Saints

Northampton paid a fine of £60,000 to the Premiership for allowing George North to play for Wales outside the official international window last month, and if it made a nonsense of the league’s collective policy on the subject, everyone else appears to believe it was a stand worth taking.

Last hurrah George North cap another fine show by heading over to score Northampton’s final try

Northampton Saints 43 Bath 25 match report: George North pulls out all stops to put Bath in their place

Northampton stall visitors’ title challenge as Myler states his case for place in England squad

2013 - the year in review: The best books of the year

"The Hired Man" by Aminatta Forna (Bloomsbury)

Look back in awe: The horticultural hits of 2013

Gardeners have a habit of going on about their planting disasters, instead of celebrating their successes, says our green-fingered correspondent...

Anna Pavord: Last-minute gift ideas for the gardening fanatic in your life

If you’ve left your present purchasing to the eleventh hour, don’t fret, there’s often nothing better than a beautifully potted-up set of herbs, or a homemade bouquet garni

The National Portrait Gallery has commissioned a portrait of Tony Blair by Alastair Adams

A portrait of Tony Blair – and zealotry

A painting of the former PM for the National Portrait Gallery tells us much about him

US father and son plead guilty to shooting neighbour's dog because it was 'annoying'

The father then harassed the dog's owner in the street after it was killed 

Grey matter: Inside Maria Hatzistefanis' Notting Hill home

Cosmetics queen Maria Hatzistefanis has found the perfect way to relax her mind after a day at work

Why do we get so trollied at Christmas?

The British attitude to drunkenness still baffles me, especially at this time of year

Former West Brom's manager Steve Clarke

West Bromwich Albion sack manager Steve Clarke after fourth defeat in a row

Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Cardiff leaves Baggies in 16th

Winging it: The shrill carder bee is thriving in Kent

What’s the buzz? The bumblebee is back!

Conservationists stunned by the insects’ rapid recovery

Eight days a week: Rebecca Black produced the song 'Friday' in 2011 and has just released 'Saturday'

Back to Rebecca Black

She was the 13-year-old internet sensation behind the 'worst song ever'. As Rebecca Black returns with a new track, Gillian Orr reckons that she's smarter than she sounds

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Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
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Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
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No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor