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Nick Hornby

SNP starts its biggest campaign

Scottish National Party leaders are building a "war chest" to help fight their "biggest ever campaign" in the run-up to an independence referendum.

1Q84, By Haruki Murakami

How odd, but apt, that an author who writes so often and so well about the lure of cults should himself have become the idol of a worldwide sect of votaries. Near the end of the first of the three volumes that make up Haruki Murakami's 1Q84, a policewoman who has investigated a secretive commune reports that "Doctrine-wise, it's kind of deconstructionist". Initiates absorb "a jumble of images of religion" that takes in "new-age spiritualism, fashionable academicism, a return to nature, anti-capitalism, occultism, and stuff". Overall, their creed "has a bunch of flavours, but no substantial core". Ayumi, a traffic cop who likes to pick up strangers in the company of the novel's heroine and enjoy "all-night sex feasts", adds: "In McLuhanesque terms, the medium is the message. Some people may find that cool."

Scientology's 'real-life Hogwarts' school charges $42,000 a year

Make jokes about Thetans and Xenu if you must. Have a good laugh at John Travolta's film Battlefield Earth if you absolutely have to. But don't expect to poke fun at L Ron Hubbard's legacy without getting an almighty roasting from the Church of Scientology's PR department.

Book publishing: Let me tell you a story...

A new website is hoping to help authors avoid the whims of sales-obsessed publishers by pitching their ideas directly to the people who really matter: the readers. Nick Duerden speaks to its founders

What the...? Dickens to get unwanted statue

The design has been chosen for the United Kingdom's first-ever statue of its greatest novelist, Charles Dickens, in spite of his request, made at his funeral, that there should be no monuments in his honour.

More headlines

DVD: Black Swan, For retail & rental (20th Century Fox)

Darren Aronofsky's exotic mix of backstage soap opera and gothic horror movie is tosh, really: being cast as the lead in Swan Lake wouldn't turn anyone into a gibbering psycho, even someone as highly strung as Natalie Portman's fledgling ballerina.