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Just to make you feel old, 2014 is the 25th anniversary of Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s classic children’s book, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. “Swishy Swashy! Squelch Squelch! Hooo wooo!” and all the rest. The book has sold more than 8 million copies in 18 languages, but initially Rosen didn’t think that it would work: “The story seems to have originally been a folk song,” he says. “David Lloyd at Walker Books saw me perform it and asked me to write it down. So I added to the story and, 18 months later, I was stunned to see the beautiful pictures that Helen had created – the family adventure is from Helen’s imagination and I enjoy and admire the book almost as an outsider – but back then I couldn’t quite figure out how it would work as a book!” To celebrate, Walker will publish an anniversary edition in January and an interactive sound book in the summer, and in February the Royal Festival Hall in London will host a “promenade performance”, where children will be invited to dress up and take home a pair of bear ears. Oxenbury recalls illustrating the book: “Michael and I never met until after the book was finished, but what was wonderful about it was there was nothing described in a way that restricted me. I modelled the children and the dog on my own. The bear’s posture I modelled on a friend who had depression, with his dropped shoulders – I felt the bear was probably lonely and wanted company rather than eat the children!” So now we know. We’re not scared!

The wounded wit of Mrs Dorothy Parker

OTHER RELEASES

FILM / Crash, bang, codswallop: Fearless (15); Tom and Viv (15); Widow's Peak (PG); Striking Distance (18); White Angel (18); Stalingrad (15); That Night (12)

ONLY PETER Weir would find spiritual uplift in a plane crash. The finale to Weir's Fearless (15), in which a DC-10 plunges to earth, can be seen as the climax of a career whose occultism, in films like The Last Wave and Picnic at Hanging Rock, has often seemed a flaky manifesto against the material world. In the passengers' moments of mortal horror, Weir becomes enraptured, drowning the crash's cacophonous impact in religiose music (Gorecki, Symphony No 3), and turning the devastation into a serenely enchanting light show. We see the aeroplane split its seams, but in images of soft, deliquescent beauty rather than shuddering agony.

Profile: Will Oskar win him the Oscar?: Liam Neeson, dogged hunky Irish actor

WOMEN are susceptible to the charms of Liam Neeson, just as they were to those of Oskar Schindler, the character he plays in Steven Spielberg's film. 'They faint at his feet,' declares a woman who worked on The Big Man, in which Neeson played a bare-knuckle fighter. 'He has a raw and open sexuality,' blurted Natasha Richardson, before leaving her husband for Neeson. And Neil Jordan, who directed him in the whimsical ghost story High Spirits, says 'he has an animal quality'.

Review: From the outer outer to the inner inner

TENNESSEE Williams is to drama what Las Vegas is to urban design. His plays, it can sometimes seem, are all hoarding and neon, garishly advertising their concerns with a set of knock-your-eyes out symbols. A director who gets embarrassed by this would do better never to have begun - you can no more successfully play it down than you can make Caesar's Palace blend into the desert by painting it a fetching shade of ochre. Far better to loosen your collar, wipe your brow and enjoy the whole business.

Award nominations

Willy Russell's musical Blood Brothers, which opened two weeks ago on Broadway, has received six Tony Award nominations. A version of The Who's rock opera Tommy received 11 nominations. Natasha Richardson was nominated as best actress.

TELEVISION / Into the heart of darkness

'IT'S BETTER to light a candle than sit and curse the dark . . .' A nearly naked man is chanting as he squats striking matches, turning his cell into a demon's grotto. He looks like a wild Christ, or Crusoe before he found Friday; cadaverous eye-sockets bruised the colour of grape, a prophet's beard. When the candles are lit he starts a fierce jig, sploshing through pools of wax and singing along with pipe music we can hear a long way off: 'Auld Lang Syne' filtered through a madman's brain. Dance, dance, wherever you may be. Even if it's Beirut. Especially if it's Beirut and you are Brian Keenan consigned to dank oblivion and going out of a mind that is the only thing they have left you. But this isn't Keenan, this is an actor playing a character called Keenan performing a routine drafted by a writer. They need a credit at the bottom of the screen: from the original suffering by Brian Keenan.

BOOK REVIEW / New terms in Texas: The Evening Star - Larry McMurtry: Orion, pounds 14.99

IT'S HARD not to make the obvious comparisons between Larry McMurtry's literary output and his native state of Texas. Both are big. Both sprawl. And both pump out the goods with regularity, like a herd of bobbing oil-rigs.
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