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Speeches in the House of Commons by the Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg are an erudite comedy turn. As MPs debated the European Union (Approvals) Bill (Lords), which writes into British law two draft regulations passed by the Council of the European Union, only he thought it necessary to read into the official record part of what one of the regulations actually said.

Bookworms battle for soul of Hay-on-Wye

GOODNESS knows what happened to the mild-mannered, bewhiskered old persons in lumpy cardigans and half-moon specs who should be running Britain's second-hand book trade. The current war between Drif Field, a book dealer and the author and publisher of Drif's Guide to the Secondhand Bookshops of the British Isles, and Richard Booth, self-styled King of Hay-on-Wye, the book town which is half in and half out of Herefordshire, suggests that intemperance - at least of language - is the order of the day in this eccentric game.

OTHER RELEASES : This is a deadly dialogue alert

Outbreak (15) Wolfgang Petersen / US Le Colonel Chabert (PG) Yves Angelo / France La Frontera (15) Riccardo Larrain / Chile Look Me in the Eye (no cert) Nick Ward / UK

Milligan's mind

centrepiece

Up and down the streets of shame

"I've been 'ere two and a 'alf, free ahrs and so far I've got two and a 'alf sentences up on the screen," wailed Pauline Quirke in Jobs for the Girls (BBC1), "... I fort it'd be easy, but it's not." She was attempting to write a brief story for the Hackney Gazette about two orphan lambs and was discovering the fatal attractions of the delete button. "I think your problem is one of deadlines," said an unusually percipient sub-editor, noting that they were now several hours past delivery time.

BOOKSHOP WINDOW: THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS: FREUDIAN TALES by Janet Sayers

THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS: FREUDIAN TALES by Janet Sayers, Chatto and Windus £15.99

An enema of the people

The US found Alan Parker's Road to Wellville unpalatable. It may be mo re to British tastes says Sheila Johnston Satire is not a mode with which US audiences are very comfortable

There's nothing like a change of scene

The glamour of the opera has lured many a theatre director. But now the ENO's former chief, David Pountney, is making a rare trip in the other directi on. David Benedict met him on holiday in Illyria As director of productions at ENO he cycled to work on a collapsible bike and w as famous for his dress sense: loud `You need trust to work well in the theatre. You've got to be able to make an i diot of yourself if necessary'

Ma's dweeb gets even on those girls: Abortion vs pro-life is the subject of Stephen King's new novel. John Lyttle asks why

NOW, THERE are cynics in the publishing world who say that Stephen King using the abortion/pro-life debate as the linchpin of his latest novel, Insomnia, is a (gasp]) barefaced attempt to ignite media controversy. King's sales slip is showing, they say, so it's perfectly understandable that he should follow Michael Crichton's Disclosure, the bestseller that cannily colonised a traditional women's issue - sexual harassment - and reversed the angle. If it worked once, why not twice? So let's have an ordinary man caught between the opposing forces, let's have wife-beating, lesbians and fundamentalist terrorism, too. Can't miss.

BOOK REVIEW / Loose thoughts in the flirtation chamber: 'On Flirtation' - Adam Phillips: Faber, 14.99 pounds

IT SAYS it is on flirtation, and its subject matter is psychoanalysis, with some excursions into literary criticism at the end. You anticipate the denouement - that psychoanalysis itself is flirtation; a means of endless play and deferment. It doesn't happen. Adam Phillips writes as he says he does, as a flirt, and so the lack of conclusion is a formal requirement. But his identity as a writer always defers to that of analyst: respect, rather than flirtatiousness, seems to be the reason he won't go that far. 'Flirtation, of course, stops when you take it seriously,' he remarks in the title essay.

BOOK REVIEW / If Oedipus was just very unlucky: On flirtation by Adam Phillips, Faber pounds 14.99

IN Adam Phillips's first collection of occasional pieces, book reviews and lectures (On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored), he presented some profound and original truths couched in canny prose notable for its circumambulation, tergiversation and wilful flirting with the sensibilities of the reader. Phillips also launched himself as a master of the modern apothegm. Such gems as 'in our dreams we are all surrealists, but in our worries we are incorrigibly bourgeois' and 'the artist is a man with the courage of his own perversions' hung around in my mind for months.

Letter: Freud was not anti-gay

IT IS A pity that your newspaper has joined in the fashionable sport of Freud-bashing. Paula Webb is wrong in asserting that anti-gay prejudice began with Freud ('Bias on the therapist's couch', 21 August).

Deep mysteries of family cruelty: Unloved or spoilt brats: who can understand children who kill their parents? Raj Persaud on the most complex of crimes

The jailing this week of Roderick and Mark Newall for their respective parts in the bludgeoning to death of their parents and the disposal of their bodies has led to massive media speculation about motive in this, perhaps the ultimate taboo crime. Was it simply for money, or the product of an affectionless family life? So far the explanations offered have fallen short - the boys were not poor, and they do not appear ever to have been physically or sexually abused by their parents.

THEATRE / Stranger and stranger: Paul Taylor reviews Lindsay Posner's production of Ibsen's The Lady

Apart from When We Dead Awaken, his final play, The Lady from the Sea is the only one of Ibsen's later works to take place predominantly out of doors. Ironically, though, even this alfresco, fiord-fringed world feels like a prison to the eponymous heroine. It's a fact strikingly signalled by the set of Lindsay Posner's production, which is overhung by an oppressive grid on to which huge, granitic boulders have been lashed. An uneasy alliance between the lifelike and the symbolic, this bizarre awning seems to epitomise the mixed nature of the play, in which a realistic drama about finding the true basis for a healthy marriage seems to have been crossed with a stark, primitive legend full of pre-Freudian insights into obsession.

BOOK REVIEW / Buried treasures: A new collection of Robert Louis Stevenson's letters restores the wit and passion previous editors suppressed. Clare Harman discovers a man as spirited as the great stories he wrote

ROBERT Louis Stevenson has been famous as a correspondent since the Letters to His Family and Friends, edited by his executor, Sidney Colvin, were published in 1899. Henry James said the book assured Stevenson 'a place with the very first' in the genre, and there seemed little reason to dispute this.

OPERA / The odd couple: Philip Glass has set Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete to music. Kevin Jackson investigates the enduring appeal of the tale as old as time

In the syrupy title song for Disney's lavish cartoon of Beauty and the Beast - now a comparably lavish dollars 12m Broadway musical, playing to capacity houses - the odd couple's story is called 'a tale as old as time'. Pedants (and music-lovers) might wince at the crooned phrase, but, allowing for lyricist's licence, it is not so wildly far of the mark. Variants of the Beauty and the Beast story, which is more dryly known to students of mythology as a member of the 'Animal Groom' cycle, go back into pre-history. The pattern was already ancient by the second century AD when Apuleius wrote down the West's first major Animal Groom tale, 'Cupid and Psyche', and many non-Western cultures have their local tellings. There is a Bantu story about a crocodile who turns back into a man when a virgin licks his face; a Yoruba myth about a girl who marries a turtle; a Javanese legend of the fruitful union between a princess and a dog.
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