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.

Jane Merrick: The Emperor's New Clothes (29/07/12)

They are designed to soothe, but a neighbour's wind chimes have got our writer running for the scissors

Weekend work: Time to do some deadheading

What to do

Nato says Afghan militant attacks are up 11%

Insurgent attacks in Afghanistan during the past three months were up 11 per cent, compared to the same period last year, according to the latest statistics on monthly violence released by the US-led coalition. 

Hilary Mantel on Booker Prize longlist following success of Wolf Hall

Past winner Hilary Mantel and three former shortlisted authors found themselves among the 12 writers on the Man Booker Prize longlist today.

“Wouldn’t it be fun for Britons to organise themselves quickly enough to beat Starbucks to a chain of tea houses,” says tea grower Jonathan Jones (pictured)

For all the tea in Truro – how a Cornish plantation is turning the tables on China

It's shortly after noon and the Tregothnan country estate is bathed in a low blanket of mist. Leaden skies loom overhead and a steady drizzle of rain makes the surrounding foliage glisten bright green.

Yearly mating ritual will see pavements and gardens covered with swarms of flying ants

Cleared for take-off: it's the day of the flying ants

Yearly mating ritual will see pavements and gardens covered with swarms of insects

Finnegans Wake By James Joyce

No one said it would be easy ...

Weekend Work: Time to prune wistarias

What to do

Wayne Amiel in the Clapham garden he has been lovingly tending for five years

'My best find was in a skip': Wayne Amiel reveals his dedication to abandoned plants

I used to know the streets round London's Clapham Old Town reasonably well, wheeling pushchairs past the grand façades of The Pavement, balancing small children on swings in Grafton Square, haring after scooters in Rectory Gardens. Someone once told me this was the oldest squat in London. I like Rectory Gardens – the random collections of stuff tacked on to walls, the small bits of garden laid straight on to the street, shored up with timber offcuts, casually, promiscuously planted with marigolds and lettuce, petunias and parsley.

B&Q sees its sales spruced up in the rain

B&Q slashed prices on paint and wallpaper to encourage homeowners to make the best of the wet weather by getting on with the decorating, its owner Kingfisher said yesterday.

Archbishop of York climbs aboard giant Noah's Ark

The Archbishop of York has inspected the final preparations for an event billed as Britain's biggest outdoor theatre production.

Gardeners say slugs have made this year a nightmare

Slug alert! Invasion of the gastropods

Record rainfall leads to population explosion – and devastation of British gardens

Kohlrabi (Brassica 'Purple Delicacy')

Caravan of love: How Joy Larkcom transformed the way we grow, cook and eat our greens

Emma Townshend pays homage to a woman whose passion for vegetables saw her take to the roads of Europe in the 1970s.

Weekend Work: Time to cut out flower stems

What to do

Archie Bland: Cameron would do better not to take sides in future

It's embarrassing enough to be overheard being rude about your neighbour if it's just the guy from down the road when you're mouthing off in the pub. Consider how much worse for David Cameron.

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