Arts and Entertainment

Your weekly guide to what's really going on in the world of books

Book critics vie for Hatchet Job of the Year award

They might be much-lauded grandees of the literary world, but Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Naomi Wolf were all gleefully cut down to size by acid-tongued reviewers last year. The critics responsible are now vying for their own honour: that of Hatchet Job of the Year.

John J Niven

One minute with: John J Niven, novelist

Where are you now and what can you see? In the office of the house I'm renting in Los Angeles. I can see palm trees and all sort of lush foliage. Also, the sparkly water of the hot tub.

Hilary Mantel's sequel survives as big names miss out on Booker Prize

Four first-time novelists are in the running for the prestigious £50,000 literary award

Amol Rajan: Russian Margarita iss just the tonic to make my holiday

Back in the days before I wrote columns – the epoch BC, I call it – there was one type of column I used to hate more than any other: the summer reading-list column. This chunk of vanity and self-regard, usually trotted out in the third week of July, could always be relied upon to tell you nothing about the writer's actual reading, and everything about his or her intellectual pretensions.

DJ Taylor: Trend alert! Old is the new young

Or maybe I'm just getting on a bit. Trend alert 2! Ignorance is the new innocence ‑ everyone's claiming the Murdoch Defence nowadays

The Word for Snow, Purcell Room, London

Programmes were not distributed until after the show, but you were handed a single sheet of white paper, blank except for one typed word – mine, somewhat dispiritingly, was "sock" – as you made your way into the Purcell Room for this European premiere of a short play by Don DeLillo.

Tom Sutcliffe: From William Hogarth to Martin Amis, it's hard to resist an amoral monster

My question this week: which did Hogarth enjoy drawing more – Gin Lane or Beer Street? Or to put it a different way, which panel do you think he drew first?

Terence Blacker: Nick Clegg's revealing literary fantasy

The effortlessly irritating Nick Clegg has done it again. Clegg the would-be writer has stepped forward, as tentative and unsatisfactory as Clegg the politician. In the latest issue of Easy Living, the Deputy Prime Minister reveals that he would like to write a novel one day. "I find writing very therapeutic," he says. "I would love to emulate the style of one of my favourite writers, J M Coetzee, although I don't think I ever could." During his twenties, he embarked on a novel inspired by another of his literary idols, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, but he abandoned it after 120 "shockingly bad" pages.

Often comic, never heartless: Edmund White

Jack Holmes and His Friend, By Edmund White

When I interviewed Edmund White for a newspaper profile, that supremely gifted photographer Jane Bown came along to take the pictures. In a swift stroke of impromptu genius,she turned the straggly greenery behind a London hotel patio into an antique bower, with White as a sprite – half-Puck, half-Pan – grinning out from between the leaves. If mayhem and upheaval often follow in his spirit's wake, then their passage will leave, beyond the heartbreak and bewilderment, happiness and even some hilarity behind.

Howard Jacobson: The near-religious zeal that drives the godless

Finding in his illness proof that an atheist dies better than a Christian strikes me as tasteless

Deborah Ross: The Not-OK! guide to getting the least out of Christmas

If you ask me: Recipes for Boxing Day... A glazed ham? That's just taking the piss, our survey says
'What makes Mart tick? Martin Amis

Martin Amis: The Biography, By Richard Bradford

It was Private Eye's anonymous critic, reviewing a Yann Martel novel, who warned of the dangers of writing about animals and allegory. He (or she) could usefully have gone on to advertise some of the perils of writing a biography of a living person. First, there is the problem of getting the subject on your side and keeping him there, never mind the threat to your objectivity that this relationship may nurture. Then there is the task of cajoling people who know him (who may regard the enterprise as a vanity project) to talk. Finally, there is the thought that most of your conclusions will necessarily be provisional, as the person may have two or three decades of vigorous existence still to live.

The Swing of Things by Sean O'Reilly

Hell on the streets of Dublin
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Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game