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.

Comedy: Heaven knows I'm miserable now

No longer bounding on stage calling 'Hiya', Sean Hughes has taken to exploring the darkness of human life, influenced more by Beckett than Ben Elton

Grand old lady of Paris comes to the London stage

Next week, the Comedie Francaise will spearhead a French invasion of British theatreland that will last until Christmas. Here we present a portrait in words and pictures of the oldest national theatre company in the world, not seen in London since 1973.

Leonard Maguire dies

Actor Leonard Maguire has died at his home in France, aged 73, after a lengthy illness. A founder member of the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre in 1943, Maguire performed with greats including Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Vivien Leigh and Edith Evans early in his career, and became an eminent figure of the Scottish stage.

DUB-LINERS

If Owen O'Neill ever contemplates posterity, presumably he rules out any but the most gargantuan epitaphs and plaques. There would be just too many job descriptions to fit on to those of standard size. Yesterday, he was set to deliver a mock-history of Irish Literature at Glasgow's CCA, inviting his audience to admit to the tediums of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett and relish the likes of "that big farmer with the big hands and the big heart, Patrick Kavanagh". A showcase, no doubt, for the skills that have made O'Neill (right) a live cert for a good night out over the last few years - as stand-up, actor and writer. But also a chance to remind us that the 42- year-old has a taste for poetry (as evidenced by his distaste for Yeats's reading style). Tonight, after the distractions of winning the first LWT comedy writing award for Off My Face, his one-man crawl through alcoholism at this year's Edinburgh Festival, he will snort not a few lines of verse, including seven or eight as yet unsampled numbers. As a writing buddy of Sean Hughes (they wrote a play, St Patrick's Day, in 1991 and are currently in "development hell" on a BBC six-parter), you can expect the material to display dollops of humour and more than a little morose angst. He will be appearing alongside one of Ireland's foremost performance poets, Rita Ann Higgins. "My agent keeps pressing me to write a novel," O'Neill says. "Maybe next year." Let's hope he draws the line there (who knows, perhaps a gallery will commission him).

Coming soon, an explosive new Irish sitcom

I see they are at it again. Who are at it again?

A dig at the reaper

THE UNDERTAKING: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch, Cape pounds 9.99

Beckett letters given to university

Trinity College in Dublin yesterday received more than 680 letters written by playwright Samuel Beckett (left) to a woman friend.

There's no hiding from fame

For some, celebrity is their reason for living. But not for the refuseniks. By Peter Popham

Biography: Consuming Struggle is a rare definitive work

Miranda Seymour, one of the Whitbread judges, gives her verdict

Ballard fights Booker winner

Whitbread Prize: Marianne Macdonald assesses this year's shortlist, while Boyd Tonkin, `The Independent's' new literary editor, offers publishers and aspiring novelists a cautionary tale on the insidious perils of hype

Theatre: How not to succeed at being a failure

Reviewing theatre in London this week has been a bit like riding on a tour bus - all monuments and landmarks. After a while you start feeling a guilty urge to stop off at a shopping mall or a McDonald's so you can give your mind a rest.

Letter: Brave Beckett

Blake Morrison's article on Samuel Beckett ("The poet of less", Review, 6 October) alleged a "change from wild youth into stagnant middle years". My dictionary defines stagnant as "showing no activity, dull, sluggish". The prime body of work on whose power, beauty and originality Beckett's stature is based (the Molloy trilogy, Waiting for Godot, Endgame, All That Fall, Krapp's Last Tape) was composed in an extraordinary burst of energy between 1947 and 1958, the second decade of Beckett's "middle years". It's hard to imagine how they could have been less stagnant.

Women, not men, talk about sex these days. Maybe it's better that way

A Man I like but don't know very well is speaking in intimate detail about his sex life. Shyly at first, but with growing confidence, he recounts passionate kisses, unbuttoned shirts, fingers probing at waistbands, the squeezing of a nipple, a naked body on top of his. He names names. He gives us the when and where and how. Thoughtfully, without boasting, he shares a chapter of his sexual history.

THE POET OF LESS

Books: Before and after Godot: two new biographies of Samuel Beckett trace the change from wild youth into stagnant middle years and enduring fame offering oneness, but of un-ness: of negationally and aspiration modern lyricist of the timesouter

Classical Music Live: Katya Kabanova Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin

Since it began touring in 1986, Opera Theatre Company has taken small-scale stagings to all parts of Ireland and abroad (most recently Amadigi at Buxton). The repertoire ranges from Handel to Britten, as well as to new commissions and realisations, including a couple of years ago an electroacoustic version of Monteverdi's Orfeo. Their new production of Janacek's Katya Kabanova had been maturing nicely at a number of venues across Ireland by the time I caught up with it in Dublin.
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