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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.

Hundreds gather in Glasgow, Liverpool and Brixton to 'celebrate' death of Margaret Thatcher

Hundreds of cheering people held parties to “celebrate” the death of Baroness Thatcher.

Margaret Thatcher had a complex relationship with the European Union

'A great politician and an exceptional person': European leaders react to Margaret Thatcher's death

The former prime minister had a complex relationship with the European Union

Margaret Thatcher was renowned for her no-nonsense turn of phrase

Margaret Thatcher: In her own words

A selection of The Iron Lady's memorable quotes

Chuka Umunna, Shadow business secretary

Page 3 Profile: Chuka Umunna, Shadow business secretary

The next leader of the Labour party?

Labour MP Chuka Umunna apologises for comments on elite social network saying London's nightclubs are 'full of trash'

A senior Labour MP has apologised for any offence caused by a complaint that London's nightclubs were “full of trash”.

The opposition candidate Henrique Capriles at an antiviolence protest on Monday

Violence - and Hugo Chavez - loom large over race for power in Venezuela

The battle to succeed El Comandante has begun

People gather around the new bells of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral during their blessing mass

Two centuries on the bells of Notre Dame ring again on 850th birthday

A sound not heard since the late 18th century pealed tunefully, and movingly, over central Paris at the weekend.

David Cameron urges Conservative spring conference to focus on 'the real enemy' ahead of 2015 election

The Prime Minister used  his address to assure members he is sticking to core Tory values

Venezuelan presidential rivals come out fighting in race to succeed Hugo Chavez

Presidential candidates Nicolas Maduro and Henrique Capriles have begun the election race with scathing personal attacks.

RMT accused of dismissing attack claim by activist

RMT union officials subjected a female member to a “character assassination” when she went to them with allegations that a senior leader had violently assaulted her, she has claimed.

Interim President Nicolas Maduro; Henrique Capriles is the most likely choice to challenge Maduro in a snap election

Anointed heir of Hugo Chavez faces competition for the poisoned chalice

Interim President Nicolas Maduro faces a battle to succeed El Comandante

Fidel Castro, left, with his brother, President Raúl Castro, at the National Assembly in Havana, on Sunday

For the first time since 1959, Cuba faces life after Castro

Ageing President Raúl Castro, brother of Fidel, appoints new deputy and signals transition to democracy

Renewed fears over Hugo Chavez's health

Venezuela’s cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez is still suffering respiratory problems after surgery in Cuba two months ago, the government has said in a sombre first communiqué  since his homecoming this week.

A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez waves the national flag in front of the military hospital where Chavez is being treated, in Caracas

World Focus: Has Hugo Chavez come home to rule – or home to die?

Hopes that their idol would take up the reins of his revolution appear to have dissipated

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
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Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week