IN OTHER WORDS : Dickens World

Just before the collapse of his childhood fortunes, Charles Dickens lived with his family in Ordnance Terrace in the shipbuilding town of Chatham, east of London. Those years were among the happiest in Dickens’s life. And so it has seemed fitting to the South East Development Agency to pay tribute to the role that Chatham played in Dickens’s life by creating “Dickens World,” an entertainment complex including rides with a Dickens theme on the site of the former naval docks. Construction will begin soon, and the opening is scheduled for 2007.

Dickens is so various an author that it’s possible to justify almost any excess done in his name. But “Dickens World” is really too much — $116 million it will cost to build it. There is the prospect that characters from Dickens’s novels will wander through “Dickens World” the way Goofy and Mickey walk the streets of Disneyland. There is talk of an Ebenezer Scrooge ride, which, unless it delivers a delirious redemption and the sudden desire to buy a prize turkey, will be a disappointment to everyone. No theme park can be true to Dickens unless it manages to terrify children as well as delight them. But the real fear is this. What if “Dickens World” is a moneymaker? After all, the poet Philip Larkin was a leading citizen of the city of Hull, also a naval town. “Larkin World,” anyone? — The New York Times