Arts and Entertainment

Private Alex Stringer, of the Royal Logistic Corps, was 20 when he was blown up in Afghanistan: "The reason I lost my left leg so high up is because the burning paint cooked my left leg all the way down to the bone. But if I hadn't set myself on fire, I would have bled out and died – as a result of it, all the arteries became cauterised".

The Opposite of Falling, By Jennie Rooney

Writing as sharp as a new pin

Cultural Life: Neil Hannon, singer

Books: The best book I've read recently is "The Rest Is Noise" by Alex Ross. It's a very thick tome about 20th-century classical music. It filled in a lot of blanks my knowledge as well as being a riveting read. Right now I'm reading Graham Greene's "The Heart of the Matter". I went through a phase of reading Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series. It's a change coming to Graham Greene which is quite dry and old-style... but beautiful.

Michael McCarthy: How could Catholics do such a thing?

That priests should be in a State of Grace was the foundation of their moral authority

At The Chime of a City Clock, By DJ Taylor

That's three books in a row from DJ Taylor that circle around the turn of the decadent 1920s into the low dishonest decade that followed it. First we had the group biography Bright Young People, which went on to inform the novel Ask Alice, about an American farm girl risen to the shady heights of British society. Now At the Chime of a City Clock advertises itself boldly as "a thriller", rather as Graham Greene designated some of his slighter works "entertainments".

One Minute With: John Simpson

John Cale, Royal Festival Hall, London

Sprightly Cale still sparkles

I, spy: In praise of Callan, the dirty, self-hating British TV detective

'Callan' started the genre, and 'Edge of Darkness' was its high point. But just try telling the Yanks that we Brits invented the brilliant, self-hating TV detective...

Imaginary Homelands, By Salman Rushdie

Anyone picking up this collection of essays might reasonably expect extensive reflection on the events that pushed Rushdie into the headlines. Instead, much of the contents seem fusty and oddly irrelevant.

A beacon amid the rubble, Greene's hotel survives

Amid Haiti's death and devastation, one small but significant piece of good news has emerged. The staff and guests at the country's most historic hotel survived, the building apparently not having suffered extensive damage.

One Minute With: Neil Cross

Solved: The mystery of forgotten Christie play

The queen of detective fiction turned her uneasy relationship with her daughter into a ' brutal' drama - and now it's on the West End

Thomas Sutcliffe: No dignity in this pretence of unity

These proposals are the sexual equivalent of the Nuremberg Laws

Forgotten author: No.22: Marjorie Bowen

A writer whose life was as fascinating as her output, Marjorie Bowen was born Margaret Gabrielle Vere Campbell Long in 1885 on Hayling Island, Hampshire. Her mother had literary aspirations; her father was an alcoholic who died on the London streets.

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, By Pierre Bayardtrs Jeffrey Mehlman

A jeu d'esprit stretched out to 185 pages, HtTABYHR maintains, by use of dodgy logic and playful perversity, that talking about books you haven't read is not only a necessity but a creative activity to be proud of. It's full of paradoxes ("Reading is first and foremost non-reading"), and it's part of the joke that Pierre Bayard is obviously extremely well-read, a professor of literature who quotes Proust, Musil, Shakespeare, Valéry, Graham Greene, etc. He has a system of categorising books: SB (skim-read book), FB (forgotten book), HB (heard-of book) and UB (unknown book). A plus sign or double-plus sign indicate positive and extremely positive opinions, a minus or double-minus sign the opposites.

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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital