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

Flower power: Monty Don in 'Great British Garden Revival'

Great British Garden Revival, BBC2 -TV review

A revolution in the flowerbed as Monty plots to make Britain bloom again

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
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Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture