Where in world...?

An old friend phoned the other day. He never phones. But this time he just had to know: "What are you doing living in Florence?"
He thought I was in Florence, Italy. I told him it was Florence, Massachusetts.
Here are some answers -- my occasional wanderings through Florence, MA and the surrounding Pioneer Valley.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy Birthday to Charles Dickens

** The New York Times has an article to be published this Sunday, February 12, 2012 in the Magazine on a reporter's visit to Dickens World. Don't miss it! It has great photos. **

Today Charles Dickens would be 200 years old, if he had cut out the raw eggs in champagne and gotten lots more sleep, not to mention the various injections that now keep women looking taut and uncomfortable. While most serious news outlets and bloggers are probably going on and on about this great Victorian writer, I say let's let it go for now, right here, because I am big on reminding people that there were 50,000 novels published in the Victorian period, and to elevate Dickens to his pedestal might be a bit excessive and exclusionary. Moreover, I would also like to remind people out there not to take him too seriously because in many instances, he didn't take himself too seriously sometimes, either. We can see the humor in the texts, as well as how he dashed off the novels in serial form (most notably in his earlier works, but less so for his later, greater novels).

One way that he showed his seriously not-so-serious side was by his live performances where he dramatized readings from his novels. I would say that this is a way for an author to connect with an audience at a very different level than the analytical, literary one that the physical novel often presents. To this end, it seems that we have some folks out there who have taken up this slightly ridiculous side and created Dickens World. That's right -- an amusement park dedicated to Charles Dickens! Believe me, if I could make the last eleven words quiver and blink with flashing lights, I would.

Since it opened a few years ago, I will admit that I have been dying to go to Kent, England to visit this place. I have no true love of amusement parks, but this one just screams out to be seen just for a few minutes. Sure, it looks like a funny stage or TV set, but it promises to be kitschy cute. I wonder if it also features appropriate smells, like the kind provided by the thoughtful people at the Jorvik Viking Centre at York, England. The Dickens World people have taken care to inform potential visitors that their restrooms are at least modern-day sanitary, not Victorian-style sanitary, so the smells are sure to be few if any. Don't forget: Dickens started Bleak House with a picture of London streets filled with mud and mire, while Our Mutual Friend has the dustheaps centrally located as the source of mystery, wealth, and salvation. Mud, mire, dust -- these all scream "smells!"

TripAdvisor.com offers useful information and photos for those who are adventurous and willing to report back to me. Some of these photos are interesting but I wonder how small everything is in reality. I know that folks have not been terribly enthusiastic about the place in their TripAdvisor reviews, and it is hard to dismiss the good work of TripAdvisors online, but that makes Dickens World even more interesting, like a slow motion train wreck.

Happy birthday, Chuckie! Be sure to hoist a pint for me at the Porters Restaurant in your amusement park! I know you'd be chatting up the barmaid if you could, you sly one.
The queue for the haunted house.
Oliver Twist gets chased through a place like this.