The Week in Arts: Can a sequel keep us hooked on a classic?

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I find the business of present- day sequels to classic books perturbing. It is always said with great confidence that the classic novelist involved would have loved the idea. But those of us without psychic powers must be free to disagree with such assertions.

I find the business of present- day sequels to classic books perturbing. It is always said with great confidence that the classic novelist involved would have loved the idea. But those of us without psychic powers must be free to disagree with such assertions.

This week, it was announced that the children's author Geraldine McCaughrean will write a sequel to Peter Pan. It's hard to oppose this on one level, as half of the royalties from the work will go to Great Ormond Street Hospital. But would JM Barrie have approved? Yes, says one of the key figures in the decision, David Barrie, the engaging and appropriately youthful-looking great-great-nephew of JM. Mr Barrie (junior), who is also the director of the National Art Collections Fund, says of the new book, entitled Captain Pan: "I think JM Barrie would have liked his [Captain Pan's] style. If I'm wrong, he'll be back to haunt us."

Well, keep the lights on at night, David. I suspect Tinker Bell might have used her fruitiest language to respond to Ms McCaughrean, who says of her sequel: "I shall speed up the pace. In all my books, as a rule something happens on every page. You can't in these days of television introduce longueurs. Children demand pace."

Old JM's pre-telly original wasn't exactly short of pace, or action. Flying children, pirates, crocodiles, mermaids, sword fights, plank-walking - surely there was enough there to hold the interest of even the most telly-addled child.

If he had the odd page without "something happening" in order to explore other things, from the heartlessness of boys to the barely understood feelings of young adolescents, then maybe it's worth forgoing something happening for a page or two.

Ms McCaughrean is a past winner of the Whitbread children's book award, and there is no reason to doubt that her sequel will be entertaining. She promises it will be "true to the spirit" of the original. It will retain all of Barrie's main characters from Peter and Hook to Wendy and the crocodile, though she does add somewhat cryptically that she will want to include more animals.

Who knows what JM Barrie would have thought of it all? My own hunch is that he would have been happier for there to be just one Peter Pan book - his.

I also think he would not have given a fig for the demands of television on his young audience, and would not have dreamed of amending his style for the television age. But I'm not even related to him, so I might be completely wrong.

On the scent of an artistic puzzle

A splendid dinner was hosted by the ICA chairman Alan Yentob this week for the Beck's Futures exhibition. But, sadly, I had to keep leaving the meal in my quest to discover the most unusual artwork in the show. It was perfume as art, an installation by Donald Urquhart. Sniff as I might in the gallery, I could smell no scent, aesthetic or otherwise.

It emerged that the curators of the exhibition had installed sensors to turn the perfume off if the scent was deemed to be too overpowering. And so there was not a whiff all evening.

Now this raises a rather troubling artistic question. If an artist is to be radical enough to make a perfume an artwork, then surely the scent has to be available to be sniffed. A canvas would not be hauled in and out of the gallery at regular intervals because it was felt to be visually overpowering.

We clearly need a new code for perfumes as artworks. The nose must be prepared for an assault as alarming as the eyes receive from the other artworks. Anything less is censorship.

¿ On another page my colleague Guy Keleny takes no prisoners in highlighting clichés in this newspaper. Sadly, no one performs the same service for those toiling away in arts public relations. Allow me to try to rectify that.

I reproduce in full the opening words of a press release for a forthcoming exhibition at one of London's leading art and photography galleries. It states: "To celebrate the 50th anniversary since the tragic death of legendary icon James Dean, Sony Ericsson Proud Central are thrilled to announce a unique exhibition of rare and unseen images of the rebel hero, by photojournalist Phil Stern - the leading photographer of the Hollywood golden era."

I challenge you to find more clichés in a single sentence.

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