When you grow weary of snatching wipes to pay the greengrocer who provides you with tonic and tobac (fuel for the all-night writing sessions that result in long novels that no one will ever read), perhaps you should find the nearest gentleman of leisure (or beadle), slit his throat in darkest night, steal his four-in-hand, and travel (fast as the post) to DickensWorld in Chatham, Kent for some much needed writerly recuperation.

From the website:

"DickensWorld has an assortment of attractions to keep the whole family entertained; jump on board the Great Expectations Boat Ride for splashing good fun, take a trip back in time to a Victorian School complete with nasty schoolmaster or get spooked in The Haunted House of 1859.

Visitors will get the chance to come face to face with some of Dickens' literary characters in their magnificent rendition of a Victorian town courtyard!

After all the excitement in the Dickensian courtyard, visitors can take a rest in the 4D cinema show at Peggotty's Boathouse or at the animatronic show in the Britannia Theatre - sit back and enjoy the story of Dickens' life and his literary works..."

DickensWorld! Man, I want to go to DickensWorld right now!

I want to fuck some jolly whore in an alley while her older brother tries to steal my books to sell them for gin until I am forced to stave his skull in with a mouldy railroad tie, causing her to love me forever.

Unfortunately, by many accounts, soon DickensWorld (which opened in 2007) will be bankrupt because it is a bad idea done badly and nobody in their right mind would ever want to visit DickensWorld for honest reasons, especially not children.

But for now, if you have the inclination and the scratch, you can still see this indoor mock-up of one of Victorian London's ramshackle cess towns, where you can ride Europe's longest log flume ride through the Newgate Prison in search of an escaped Magwitch, you can see an animatronic puppet show about Charles Dickens' life and works, and you can play computer games in a Victorian schoolhouse.

Also, there are gift shops where you can buy Dickens books, horehound candy, and probably some shoe polish.

There are actors in period costume who try to involve you in their mental illness. There is a playground called "Fagin's Den" where toddlers can kick off their shoes and run around like lunatics for ten minutes while their parents whisper about germs and pedophiles. Everything is dark all the time. Everything is British. Yet -- and here's where they went wrong -- everything is also optimistic, dandy, sugarcoated, and juvenile.

I say, the creators of DickensWorld missed a golden goddamn opportunity.

I lived in this town called Waxahachie, Texas for a year growing up, which doesn't offer much to anybody in the world except for a pretty good football team and a huge, two-month renaissance festival called "Scarborough Faire." Sometimes I miss Texas. Here is Scarborough Faire's "Weapons Policy":

"Weapons Policy: The management discourages the use of weapons as costume adornments, as the safety of our patrons is our utmost concern. Any weapon adornment must be "peace-tied" and otherwise protected so any sharp edges are covered, and so it cannot be drawn or wielded while on the grounds. Due to the wide variety of potential "weapons" each item is handled on a case-by-case basis when the patron enters the festival. The Front Gate personnel determine what will and will not be allowed into the festival, as well as how it will be "peace-tied" and protected before the patron enters the festival. To avoid your weapon being held at the entrance gate until you depart the Festival, we advise that you do not wear weapons as costume adornments. Security personnel will monitor the wearing of weapons on the festival grounds. On violation of our weapons policy, Security personnel may confiscate any weapon and expel the violator from the festival grounds. Southwest Festivals, Inc. reserves the right to exclude a patron/participant from carrying or wearing a weapon."

The dynamics of a renaissance festival are interesting: they take a group of charming sociopaths who would otherwise be homeless criminals, lash them together in one field, and nail up a sign that says "Historical Fun." The truth is that the only reason that a renaissance fair stays in business is because it is the best place to meet hysterical girls who like the wrong kind of men, to carry around a broadsword without anybody frog-marching you to a state home, to buy well-made fetish sex gear, to eat giant turkey legs, and to score meth.

I think the world is ready for a writer theme park, and I see no problem with organizing it around the preoccupations and style of big Chuck D. But the trick is to find modern criminals and stick them in peacoats and sideburns. The world is all cybercrime these days: the sneak-thiefs, pimps, and thugs of a bygone age need new jobs now. A real DickensWorld ought to be half New Orleans brothel, half "Ripley's Believe it Or Not!" Museum. Everyone there should be trying to destroy their minds and bodies with the blunt weapons of the Victorian working class. There must be a huge selection of airless, smoke-filled rooms that you can rent by the hour complete with a stained mattress and one bucket full of lard, the other full of talc.

Things a real DickensWorld must have:

1). Alcohol
2). Lockpicking and pickpocketing lessons taught by aggressive professionals
3). A rancid, rat-infested theater that shows bootleg "Masterpiece Theater" editions of Dickens movies where you can buy alcohol and boiled meat
4). A writer's commune funded by Oxford where writers get a cheap place to live (a reproduction of the Marshalsea prison) but where they must work as ticket takers and bartenders at the Dickens World amusements: a). a deeply-disturbing animatronic freak show complete with terrifying reproductions of the Victorian era's most grotesque natural phenomena b). a game where you toss baseballs at milk jugs c). an indoor roller-coaster that also doubles as a real, working factory that makes cheap, good boots that you can also buy at Dickens World and which will last forever
5). A really kick-ass library where you can drink and smoke
6). A sex toy shop that specializes in copper, magnetism, and tophats

Anyway, if you live in England and your life is already a disappointment, I say take a trip over to DickensWorld and see this strange testament to the disappointment of a past age.

If you dedicate your whole life to literature, the poor, the beaten, and the despised, someday college kids will have to dress up as your "colorful" characters, choke down their dignity, and pretend to like children in order to pay for their psychology degrees. If that's not a reason to keep writing fiction, then I don't know what to tell you.

Posted by miracle on Thu, 09 Apr 2009 15:55:14 -0400 -- permanent link

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