Books: Pick of the week - To "E" or not to "E".

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The Independent Culture
Survival or oblivion: that is our quandary or, our curious task anyway, if you want to try to adapt a tragic royal Danish play without using a vital symbol of script. But why do this you ask. So as to play with stylistic forms which a group known as "Oulipo" still find artistically nourishing. This band of lunatic wordsmiths most notably had fun writing "lipograms" such as this - which inflicts particularly crazy vocabulary constraints.

Banishing the letter "E" was only the tip of the experimental iceberg. Dip into the new Atlas Press treasury, The Oulipo Compendium, and discover hundreds more enigmatic parlour games to have emerged from Oulipo's Workshop for Potential Literature. Compose a poem without using any of the letters in your girlfriend's name; write a novel using no word more than once; or bastardise a classic text by substituting every noun with the word seven entries away from it in the dictionary of your choice - "To be or not to be: that is the quibble."

The Nux Vomica cabaret club pays homage to Oulipo tonight, with a soiree of dotty performances. Rene Eyre and Matt Fraser unveil a lipogrammatic striptease, Stephanie Mass terrorises classic French chansons, amidst poems, films, and readings from the sacred texts of Oulipian masters.

If you find yourself in a less avant-garde frame of mind, The Word festival provides plenty of alternatives. This afternoon Booker prize-winner Ian McEwan reads from his latest work. And in tonight's poetry gala, Ariel Dorfman, Margaret Atwood and Simon Armitage together with Derek Walcott perform their work.

Irish Nobel Prizewinner, "famous" Seamus Heaney, heads for the Barbican on Sunday, for an unmissable musical collaboration with uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn. O'Flynn contributes the traditional airs, laments and dances, while Heaney digs deep into his collected works.

Nux Vomica Oulipo Soiree Senso: Albert Hotel, 191 Queensgate, London SW7 (0171-490 8742), tonight, 8pm - 2am, pounds 8/pounds 6 concs: Ian McEwan, LSE Peacock Theatre London WC2 (0171-863 8222), today, 4.00pm, pounds 6.50; Poetry Gala; LSE Peacock Theatre, London WC2 (0171-863 8222), tonight, 7.45pm, pounds 12/pounds 10 concs: Seamus Heaney & Liam O'Flynn; Barbican, Silk St, London EC2 (0171- 638 8891), tomorrow, 7.30pm, pounds 8.50-pounds 20.