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.

Waiting for Godot, Theatre Royal Haymarket, London<br>Time and the Conways, NT Lyttelton, London <br>Peer Gynt, Barbican, London

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are on superb, unstarry form as they breathe fresh life into Beckett's tragicomedy

My Life In Travel: Stephen Frears

'I thought Calcutta was the most exciting place in the world'

Observations: Tide is awash with new talent

The third annual High Tide theatre festival at Halesworth in Suffolk, which kicks off on 27 April for 14 days, is premiering three new plays that have been hand-picked and developed from over 650 scripts. The chosen writers – Lucy Caldwell for her second play Guardians, Jesse Weaver and Lydia Adetunji for their debut plays Muhmah and Fixer respectively – were paired up with young directors, designers and actors and given mentors to help them from the first draft through to finished, final productions.

Educated opinion - Trinity College Dublin

The latest instalment in our “Educated opinion” series: a graduate from Trinity College Dublin describes the modern outlook of a 400-year-old institution.

Richard Seaver: Publisher who fought against prudery and censorship

With the death of the celebrated American publisher Richard Seaver, a small literary mystery has been cleared up. In 1965, as editor at Grove Press – the avant garde publisher of everyone from Jack Kerouac to Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs, Henry Miller and the Marquis de Sade – Seaver published that minor masterpiece of masochism, Story of O, by the pseudonymous "Pauline Réage" (who was revealed in 1994 to be the French editor and journalist Dominique Aury). Equally secret was the true identity of the translator, the poetically named "Sabine d'Estrée". Now his widow and business partner, Jeanette, has confirmed that Seaver translated this book of bondage from the French, as he did 50 other titles. In 1988 the couple founded the independent publishing house Arcade, whose proud boast was that they had "brought to the North American reading public works by 252 authors from 31 different countries," and in doing so defied provincialism, prudery, censorship and social and literary convention.

Leading article: Lord of the dance

As a freshly minted United States President proved this week, a well-delivered speech can do wonders for your popularity, but if you really want to melt the public's heart, you've got to move your body on the dance floor.

Close-up: Liz Walker

Is your puppet in crisis? Meet the woman who can pull some strings

Website Of The Week: www.snipurl.com/96spt

Samuel Beckett is the only Nobel winner to appear in Wisden but Harold Pinter – dismissed for 78 on Christmas Eve – is surely the only Nobel winner with a cricket webpage. Pinter's rhythmic pauses. Reflected the game's cadences. Like cricket. His silences. As consequential as action.

Poetry in brief: Drives by Leontia Flynn

Leontia Flynn's restless second collection sets off from Belfast, the poet's hometown, for a whistle-stop tour of cities such as Rome, Paris and New York. Poems whizz by. Only four of the volume's 53 pieces go over the page; many sit comfortably in the top half of one. They are packed, in an artful, off-the-cuff manner, with quotations and paraphrases, from Louis MacNeice and Elizabeth Bishop to Dorothy Parker and the Talking Heads. Along with Flynn's fondness for the sonnet, this learning recalls the Robert Lowell of Notebook. The tone of her poetry certainly suggests a writer trading the gravitas of Ireland's elder statesmen poets for a looser, American style.

Observations: Only seat in the house

Rockaby, Samuel Beckett's poetic solo piece in which a woman rocks towards her self-inflicted death in her mother's chair, went on temporary leave before its final performance at the Young Vic last Saturday. Kathryn Hunter, still in costume, took a taxi outside the theatre for St John's Wood High Street. There, she made for the third-floor flat of Blanche Marvin, who is bed-bound after two serious operations.

You Write The Reviews: Fragments, Young Vic, London

The theatre is full. Two ushers stand in front of the empty stage. The chattering stops, and the lights go out. Two men come on stage: Khalifa Natour plays A, a depressed blind violinist, and Marcello Magni is B, an angry disabled man in a broken wheelchair. B sees the advantages of them both living together and tempts A with the corned beef and potatoes he cooks. A relates how he lost "his woman", who made him crawl on all fours and left him when he stood up: "I have always been unhappy." "Why don't you let yourself die?" B asks. "I am not unhappy enough," A responds. We see ourselves in what follows: violent, vulnerable and unable to recognise and therefore satisfy our many human needs.

Tell Me This is Normal, by Julie O'Callaghan

The demotic, funny, quiety devastating vignettes of Julie O'Callaghan seem to owe a debt to the brevity and precision of classical Chinese poetry. O'Callaghan is a Chicagoan of Irish descent who has lived in Ireland since her twenties. Selected from a 25-year publishing history, the poems of 'Tell Me This is Normal' are part verse, part dramatic monologue and wholly her own.

Edna O'Brien's latest offering has made it to the stage in full, flaming glory

Past works by Irish playwright Edna O'Brien have been censored and burned. But not her latest offering, 'Triptych'

You, the Living, (15)

Grisly graveyard humour sparkles in the gloom: Desolate, nightmarish, grey &ndash; don't miss this Swedish director's grim, great vision

E Jane Dickson: What are 'life skills' without knowledge?

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