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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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

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Compton Cricket Club

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