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.

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

Brian O’Driscoll, a rugby genius in his final season

Heineken Cup: Brian O’Driscoll prolongs Northampton Saints’ home agony

Anyone who had not seen Northampton’s humbling  40-7 defeat by Leinster at Franklin’s Gardens coming may have forgotten the Saints’ series of home losses to Saracens, Ulster, Harlequins, Gloucester and Leicester last season. Or Leinster’s many wondrous performances in the Heineken Cup – three-time winners since 2009, even if last season they dropped a level to winning the Amlin Challenge Cup. The boys in blue did to Northampton on Saturday what they did to them in the famous second half of the 2011 Heineken final.

Picture perfect: Illustrations from Do You Speak English, Moon

Geese, gorillas, grandads... and growing up: The world of children's books

To begin a three-part series on children’s books for Christmas, Nicholas Tucker picks the season’s best picture books

Life of Brian: Brian O’Driscoll breaks away for a try that he clearly enjoyed

Northampton 7 Leinster 40 match report: Leinster give lesson in the arts of speed and handling

Northampton overwhelmed from the start by a brand of the game they rarely experience

Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon travel to take on Exeter

Heineken Cup: Toulon test for Baxter’s boys as Harlequins battle to stay alive

If Morecambe and Wise had been blessed with Premier Rugby’s sledgehammer sense of timing, the celebrated Andre Previn sketch would have been about as side-splittingly funny as a David Cameron one-liner.

Recalled Monty Panesar dropped George Bailey on 10 off his own bowling

Ashes 2013-14: Monty’s antics even manage to melt hearts of Australians

Foolish though Cricket Australia was, it perhaps showed how fondly he is regarded.

How to clean up this dogs' mess we're in

According to The Dogs' Trust, fouling in public places is on the rise

An artist's impression of the Garden Bridge

Joanna Lumley’s garden bridge over the Thames gets £30m seal of approval from Government

The Government has pledged £30 million in funding for actress Joanna Lumley’s vision, as it plans to sell off £20 billion state assets

Scarlett Strallen as Cunegonde in Candide at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Candide: Theatre review - 'At once spine-tingling and spiritually unearned'

Menier Chocolate Factory, London

Simpson on the way to compiling a century for England against Australia in the fifth Test at Melbourne in 1950

Reg Simpson: Batsman for England and Nottinghamshire whose swashbuckling style helped brighten the postwar years

In the postwar years of austerity there were few more attractive sights in English cricket than the Nottinghamshire batsman Reg Simpson. With a quick eye and the natural gift of timing he developed a back-foot technique that seemed to give him more time than anyone else against the fast bowlers. If they bowled bouncers he swayed effortlessly out of the way. If they pitched it up he drove them elegantly. Always he played with a positive spirit, prepared to embrace risk in pursuit of victory.

Shop assistants Jools and Trudy of Liberty

Forget about romcoms – we want shop docs

London's Liberty department store follows Claridge's in allowing television cameras in

The house and grounds

B&B and Beyond: Pauntley Court, Gloucestershire

The former home of Dick Whittington combines medieval grandeur with modern comforts, says Matthew Bell

Review: Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, By Sebastian Faulks

What’s the point of this book? If it’s to introduce a new generation to the joys of P G Wodehouse’s most famous creations, then just sling one of the originals at them. If it’s a tribute to the Jeeves and Wooster writer then it’s a rather feeble one, to be honest. Faulks states in his Author’s Note that he doesn’t want to imitate or satirise, but Jeeves and the Wedding Bells certainly does imitate and verges on spoofing Wodehouse’s work at times.

The property's historic bedroom

Stay the Night: Lendal Tower, York

Once part of the city walls, then a water tower, this medieval building now accepts guests. Holly Williams takes a step back

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Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
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Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

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