The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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June 18, 2014

Mary Poppins, She Wrote


I haven't seen the film Saving Mr. Banks yet (have you?)  -- though it's finally on hold for me at the library, so it can be a weekend treat -- but from the minute I heard about it I loved the idea of a movie about Mary Poppins. The movie came out when I was six, and we grew up singing all the songs. {I probably still could -- same with the songs from Cinderella, the one with Lesley Ann Warren.  'Ten minutes ago I saw you, I looked up when you came through the door...'  About 10 years ago, when I was learning to ice skate a little, I would sing that one to myself to get a good gliding rhythm going. :)} But I also remember the books, and the pen-and-ink drawings, though not very specifically.

Me being me, I went looking for a biography of P.L. Travers, and found Mary Poppins, She Wrote, by Valerie Lawson (published in 1999 and recently re-issued).  It didn't have good reviews, and I think they were right; I wanted it to be better. It was a little too over-analytical, and over-written, in places. (I think it's possible that when you've read Claire Tomalin and Robert K. Massie, you're spoiled for life.)  But it's also that P.L. Travers (a stage name first, when she wanted to be an actress, then her nom de plume) was very hard to warm up to.  She comes across as a very odd, self-centered, self-absorbed, lonely, yearning woman ... and since she lived to be 96, there was a lot of that side of her to get through. The biography became livelier n its descriptions of her strong reactions to the movie (it will be interesting to see how this is treated in Saving Mr. Banks), and I especially enjoyed the chapter describing her stints as a writer-in-residence at Radcliffe and Smith College in the 1960s.

You learn from reading Mary Poppins, She Wrote that Mary Poppins (the book) is filled with everything from autobiographical details to ancient mythology to fantasy to Irish poetry.  Now that I've read about all that, I'm looking forward to reading the book again, wondering if knowing all that will enrich my childhood memories, or not. :)

Updated:  I watched Saving Mr. Banks last night, and enjoyed it very much (it has a great cast!).  But Miss Travers wasn't the same woman in the film and the biography -- she's much more endearing in the movie :) -- and her lifelong yearning for her own Mr. Banks was depicted very differently.


JoAnn said...

My head started reeling
you gave me the feeling
the room had no ceiling
or floor....

Sorry, couldn't resist. Enjoy saving Mr. Banks - I haven't seen it yet, either.

Barbara C. said...

I read the "Mary Poppins" sixty or so years ago and loved it. If I had only known there were sequels I would have devoured them. Just recently I reread the book with my two grandchildren and wondered how I could have liked it so much. It bothered me but I just have to write it off to "another time"!
Enjoy Saving Mr. Banks. It is a good story with amazing actors!

Cosy Books said...

My library hold came up but was left to languish in favour of a gritty British police drama. It was just that kind of weekend! My colleagues that have seen it absolutely loved it though!

Frances said...

I should watch that this weekend too. I see it is streaming from a few places. Adored Mary Poppins books when I was little and forced my kids into watching the movie repeatedly when they were little. Sorry the bio was disappointing!

Vintage Reading said...

Never read the book - all my assocations with MP are Julie Andrews based! You've piqued my interest though.

Bellezza said...

Oh, I loved the film Mary Poppins! And when I show it to my class, the majority of which have not seen it, they love it, too. I must admit, bough, I never understood her saying, "I'll stay until the wind changes" in connection with Mr. Banks' attitude changing.

Anyway, I've yet to see Saving Mr. banks. I'll have to do as you have done and reserve it at our library.

The original book P. L. Travers never appealed to me the way the film did (and does). That's a rare instance when I like the movie better than the book.

Thank you for visiting!

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