Worlds apart
(Richard Cowper, 1974)

This is a delightful book that sadly seems to have been out of print since it was first published in 1974. I managed to get hold of a second-hand copy in 2002, having read a library copy many years before.

It tells the story of George Herbert Cringe, "parent, breadwinner, and Junior Science teacher at Bagshot Road Comprehensive School", who cherishes two fantasies in his miserable life: one is relatively modest, realistic, and achievable; the other is totally fantastic but very charming. Both fantasies unexpectedly come true for him, though only rather briefly.

The book paints a vivid picture of how a certain type of downtrodden Englishman lived in the late twentieth century, and an equally vivid picture of life on the remarkable and wonderful planet of Chnas — which is a figment of George's imagination, but refuses to stay that way.

In a sense, this is a minor book; but it's a great minor book. I come out of it with much sympathy for poor George and a wistful regret that I'll see no more of Chnas and the Chnassians.

I also feel much sympathy for Richard Cowper, who wrote this lovely book and probably earned next to nothing from it.

Written in June 2005