Arts and Entertainment

Without question, the book that has most influenced my life has been Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs. I was astonished by the outrageous pot-head humour: crazy ideas taken way beyond their normal limits. The book was a savage indictment of American racism and consumerism, it dealt with the corruption, graft and lies of politicians with Swiftian humour. I had never read anything like, then or since.

Marilyn Monroe and her literary loves

The movie star was famed for playing ditzy blondes on screen, but a new book of her writings reveals her passion for James Joyce, Walt Whitman and Samuel Beckett

Simon Gray - let's rank this playwright with the greats

The director David Leveaux has worked with Beckett and Pinter. But it's Simon Gray who deserves equal billing

Howard Jacobson: Here's why the 'elite' are in charge

Clegg and Cameron have power because there aren’t enough people educationally equipped to seize it from them

Angela de la Cruz: After, Camden Arts Centre, London

A Spanish artist just couldn't liven up her canvases – until she accidentally snapped one in half

How leaders measure up – on paper, at least

Analysis of the handwriting of the leaders of the main political parties has found that Gordon Brown "won't be told what to do", David Cameron is "skilled at talking his way in and out of things" and Nick Clegg can "get what he wants without aggression".

Read 'em and weep: The literary masters of misery who delight in desolation

Tomorrow is officially the most dispiriting day of the year, but don't even think about fighting it, says James Kidd: it's far more rewarding to embrace the gloom in the company of a masterpiece of misery

Footsbarn's Christmas Cracker, Shakespeare's Globe, London

Braving the elements like some communal version of King Lear, the utterly idiosyncratic Footsbarn collective have mounted the first yuletide show at Shakespeare's Globe. Performed in cold, rainy but elatingly festive conditions on the night that I attended, Christmas Cracker ends in the same joyously eccentric, wondrously witty and indissolubly Shakespearean manner that has marked its progress over two unequal portions. Streamers suddenly fall through wintry air, spring suddenly puts in an inordinately early and floral appearance and the company joins in a bonkers but beautiful rendition of "Summer Is Icumen In".

The Expelled/The Calmative/The End/First Love, By Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett wrote these stories in the 1940s – the first begun in English but completed in French, the others all written in French and later translated by Beckett. Edited here with a witty and erudite preface by Christopher Ricks, the first three form a mini-trilogy of the adventures, if that's the right word, of a solitary deadbeat; the fourth is a close relative in terms of themes and voice. In it, another homeless deadbeat falls in love with a woman who comes to sit on his park bench; he knows it's real love when he finds himself writing her name with his finger in a cow pat (and afterwards sucking the finger).

La Clique, Roundhouse, London

When all that glitters is gold

Yinka Shonibare: Willy Loman – The Rise and Fall, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

It's an old adage, but it's worth repeating: a human being looks taller, and gets to see further, when he climbs up on another man's shoulders. What can this possibly mean when applied to the practice of artists? It's quite simple. When you make a work, you give it added gravitas by claiming that it refers to, or incorporates elements from, great works of the past. They needn't be works by visual artists alone. They could be by writers too. Samuel Beckett, for example, has been flogged to death in this respect. As a consequence you half-suggest – it is really super-subtle – that you are claiming some kind of parity of achievement, or perhaps that by this simple fact of incorporation of elements from the past, you are even surpassing what you have borrowed from or alluded to.

Michael Glover: A journey into the terror of sensory deprivation – nearly

The sheer terrible sobriety puts one in mind of Balka's other pessimistic works

Gallery visitors invited to enter 'black hole'

A huge "black hole" was unveiled today as the latest exhibition at the Tate Modern.

Book Of A Lifetime: Waiting for Godot, By Samuel Beckett

A couple of tramps, an off-stage potentate with a made-up name who never materialises, a strange slave at the end of a rope spouting nonsense (or is it?). A slave master. A little boy. And that's it. What happens? Well, nothing of course. They wait. They say "let's go." They do not move.

Prom 56: Staatskapelle Dresden/ Luisi, Royal Albert Hall, London

The venerable Staatskapelle Dresden arrived at the Proms proudly bearing the excess luggage of Strauss’ Alpine Symphony – a piece dedicated expressly to them.

Photographer faces trial in €1bn L'Oréal case

A celebrated French society photographer is to stand trial for defrauding the principal shareholder of L'Oréal out of almost a billion euros by taking advantage of her age and confused mental condition.

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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game