Monday, September 7, 2009

P.L. Travers

I'm done with actors for awhile.

The next few people on the list are writers.

P.L. Travers is the Mary Poppins author.

I never knew she was Australian...well, I mean until fairly recently.

I don't know much about her at all. I think she was from Queensland.

I don't think I've ever read the Mary Poppins books. I have seen the movie though. I like the songs. I like the cute little British children. I wonder what's happened to them. Wait. I kind of remember reading that the little girl became a chiropractor. I love where-are-they-now stuff.

Before we start, it's very important that I watch this video. It's funny, and it will get me into a Mary Poppin's mood.

P.L. stands for Pamela Lyndon. She did what JK Rowling later did. I can understand someone back then having to hide their femininity. Sad that it needed to be done in the 20th century. Although maybe JK Rowling changed all that. Perhaps now we'll have faith that a book written by a woman can be enjoyed by the masses; both male and female.

Baby Pamela was born on 9 August 1899. Her birthday has a lot of 9's there. That could mean something.   Nine is the humanitarian number. If you flip the 9's over, you have three sixes....the sign of Satan!

Her astrology sign was Leo. That's Jack's sign.

Her numerology number was 8. That's my dad's sign. It's all about success. My dad has been very successful....so was Travers.

Travers shares a birthday with Eric Bana and Gillian Anderson. Both Anderson and Bana were born in 1968. That means they're the exact same age. Well, I guess there'd be an hourly difference in the ages. If they were born at the same time, that might be spooky.

If I'm understanding Lord Wiki right, Pamela might NOT have been her original name. She might have changed her name, and THEN turned it into initials. It seems her original name was Helen.

Baby Helen was born in Maryborough Queensland. I'm looking at Google Maps now. It's about an hour south of Bundaberg.

Maryborough is known for being the only place in Australia that had an outbreak of the Pneumonic plague. Only one family got the sickness, but the town was full of hysteria.

I wonder if Traver's family still lived there. They could have moved elsewhere. If she was there, she would have been about six during the whole episode. I wonder if it left an impression on her.

Lord Wiki says that Traver's father owned a bank. It was in the center of town. It's no longer a bank; it's government offices instead. But it now has a statue of Mary Poppins.

When Travers was a teenager, she got some of her poems published. She wrote for The Bulletin, that magazine meant for white Australians.

Travers was also an actress. She toured with a Shakespearean company around Australia and New Zealand.

In 1924, she moved to London. She'd be about twenty-five then.

Lord Wiki says Travers was inspired by J.M Barrie. He's the guy who wrote Peter Pan.

In 1925, Travers went to Ireland. There she met Irish poets, and she had some of her own poems published.

Lord Wiki says Travers was greatly influenced by a mystic named Gurdjieff. I gotta read about this guy....

Well, it looks a bit complicated actually. I'm trying to understand it. I think the basic idea is that Gurdjieff felt people were all asleep. Maybe it's like we're not all fully there? I think he tried to get people to wake up. I might be reading this all wrong though.

Mary Poppins was published in 1934. The book had five sequels. The last was published in 1988. Wow.

The Disney movie came out thirty years after the first book was published. Travers was NOT happy with it. It seems her book was much darker than the movie. Maybe it was more like the video I watched earlier.

Disney does have a habit of turning dark stuff into happy singing stuff. The original Peter Pan is much darker than the Disney version.

Travers also didn't like the music much, and she didn't like the animation sequences.

At the Premiere of the film, Travers approached Disney and said the animation had to be taken out. He said it was too late, and he walked away.

I feel for her. I can imagine it's hard for a writer to see their work changed into something they didn't imagine. On the other hand, I can think of cases where I prefer the movie or play over the original work. One example I can think of is Wicked. Well, I've actually never seen the the show, but I've heard the songs, and read enough about it to know what it's all about. I've read the book as well. I much prefer the musical version.

Travers was in her nineties when she was approached about the Disney stage musical. She was still pissed off about the movie. She gave them permission to do the musical, but set down some ground rules. She wanted no American writers working on it, and no one from the film production could be involved.

That's just plain bigotry. I sympathize with her anger, but to blame all Americans is ridiculous. Personally, I think the right choice would have been to say no period.

She wouldn't let the original song writers make any NEW music, yet she did allow the old songs to be put in the musical.

I just feel she should have said no to all of it. What would have been better is to allow a whole NEW and different entity make a Mary Poppins adaption. Maybe someday someone will. Maybe they'll be more faithful to Traver's novels.

At the age of forty, Travers adopted a baby. This baby had a twin. Travers refused to adopt both of them. She separated the kids. Later the kids reunited.

I'm done with Lord Wiki. So far, I'm not loving this woman. I get a sense of bitchiness about her. But I shall read more. I might end up loving her later.

Actually, I'm not done with Lord Wiki. I'm going to read his stuff about the Disney movie. It has some information about Travers.

As early as 1938, Disney tried to buy the rights to Mary Poppins. Travers said no. Disney at that time was known for animation only. I don't think she imagined someone like that could do justice to her baby.

Disney tried for twenty years to convince her. Finally, in 1961 she said yes. However, she demanded script approval rights.

Lord Wiki says Travers didn't want original composed music for the film. She wanted music from the Edwardian period. This is the early 1900's....the time in which the film is set.

In the books, it seems there are more children....not just two. Mary Poppins is less loving and less friendly.

Travers didn't like the hints of romance between Bert and Mary. To appease her, Disney put some lyrics in "Jolly Holiday" that indicated their relationship was platonic. However, Lord Wiki says some romantic lyrics remain.

Both the theater musical and movie have been extremely successful. The musical won the Tony Award for best musical. The movie was nominated for best picture, and it won other awards. Disney took a book, changed it, and made it a masterpiece. Is that right or wrong? I don't know.

I once wrote a novel...a psychological lesbian drama. My dad was nice enough to send it to this publisher he knew. The publisher didn't like it much. He suggested all these revisions that would have COMPLETELY changed the whole nature of the book. I think he wanted it to be something like a mainstream thriller. The nature of the letter seemed more along the lines of this-is-my-friendly-advice-to-you rather than if-you-change-this-we'll-publish-it. If it had been the latter, I might have seriously considered making the changes. Let's say it was published. What if it was very successful? What I ended up with a bestseller? How would I feel?

I really have no idea.

Maybe I'd feel some grief for the original novel. But maybe I'd also be grateful for the money and success. With that, I could probably get my other work published.

It might also depend on how emotionally attached someone is to their work. I'm very attached to my work as I'm writing it...and probably a few months after.   Later, I lose that attachment. If someone wanted to produce or publish my work today, I don't think I'd care much about the changes....unless they put things in that were personally offensive to me. I mean I wouldn't want them to take my work and turn it into something that was insulting towards homeschooling. Besides stuff like that though, I think I'd just be happy to be having some writing success. I'd probably be most happy about the money part....especially if it was a lot of money. Then we could move to Australia.

Here's a website with some information on Travers.

She has two sisters.

Traver's original last name was Goff.

She traveled often to America.

She started writing Mary Poppins when she was recovering from an illness. The story was inspired by a woman she used to see back in Queensland.

The book was a success. In that case, I can feel a little more sympathy for Traver's anger. I was picturing a sleeper type book being transformed into a popular sensation. Her book already had fame.

I don't know.

All in all...I get the picture that Travers is an uptight bitch. Disney was probably a controlling manipulative asshole.

Here's a whole website about Travers.

She wrote four novels that were not Mary Poppins books. One was a Jesus story called The Fox at the Manger. That was published a few years before the movie Poppins film came out. I wonder if the popularity of the film increased the book sales.

In 1971, she published a book about a monkey.

Wait. This other website has good information about her other novels. It seems the last website missed some stuff.

In 1941, Travers published a story about a British child moving to America. This was called If I Go By Sea, I Go By Land.

In 1975 Travers published her own version of Sleeping Beauty. The book also contains her viewpoints of fairy tales.

In 1976 she published a book with Middle Eastern tales.

Never mind. The other website didn't miss stuff. They just didn't put some of the books in the novel category. Instead, it's in compilations and essays.

The Travers website is mostly just a list of her work. It does have some links to other sites though. Maybe I'll find something valuable.

Here's a eulogy type thing. I should say an eulogy, right? But that doesn't sound right to me.

The writer says, But today the original Mary has been all but forgotten, pushed aside by Disney's glittering Julie Andrews and her supercalifragilisticexpialidocious world. And that is a genuine pity, for the true magic of Travers's prim English nanny can never really be translated to another media, for Mary Poppins is not, as Disney suggests, about the social education of the Banks family, nor is it even about Mary Poppins, ultimately. Rather, it is about the imagination.

Maybe the tragedy isn't that Disney changed Mary Poppins. I think the movie is great. Maybe the problem is the books HAVE been forgotten. I wonder how popular they are.  And how easy they are to find? I know of one child who has read all the books. I think she and her family are fans. Outside of that, I don't know of anyone who has read the books. I don't remember reading them myself. Not that this necessarily means anything. I'm not an expert on what's popular and what's not.

With stuff like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Winnie the Pooh....the Disney adaptations are popular and successful. But the original work is still widely read as well. With Alice and Peter, we're also blessed with multiple film interpretations.

I really think the solution here is for a filmmaker to remake Mary Poppins and base it more closely on the original books. That will surely spark interest in the novels.

The writer talks about how Travers believed in something called linking. This is about creating our own stories to explain the universe. I bet rational scientist people would hate that!

I don't. I like it.

Science has its place. It's important. But imagination is so fun and wonderful.

Lightening is a form of static electricity. That's the science. But it's also fun to imagine that angels are snapping photographs, or that a little demon is playing with a flashlight.

Temporarily ignoring science for the sake of imagination is harmless. I think it becomes bad though when certain people insist THEIR myth is the one and only truth. That's silly. And in that case, I like when the scientists come in to debate them.

The eulogy-thing says a lot of the Mary Poppins books dealt with the issue of belief. Magical things happened....or did they? Is it real or our imagination?

Is Mary Poppins a magical nanny, or does she just inspire the kids to use their imaginations?

In one chapter of her books, Travers talks about how children lose much of their imaginations once they learn about the world. Fortunately though, a lot of us keep our imaginations. We can set aside that which we have learned. We can suspend our disbeliefs and rational explanations. We can still have magical fantasies. Some Christians might say we've been influenced by Satan and witchcraft. Richard Dawkin's followers will say we're delusional. I say poo on all of them.

Here's a book review.

It says in 1981, Travers revised one of the chapters of a Mary Poppins book. The original contained racial stereotypes of Eskimos, black people, American Indians, and Chinese people. The review says the harshest stereotypes were the ones about the black people. Travers had written them as being unintelligent. She went back and changed the story.

Here's something that was written for a Gurdjieff organization. I didn't find it to be that interesting...personally. Basically, it says that Travers was into learning about religion and mythology.

Here's an essay about Travers...more religious stuff. This is funny. In 1995, a newspaper had an article with the title Is Mary Poppins Really Satan? Yes. If magic doesn't come from Jesus Christ himself, it must be Satanic.

Yeah. I'm bitter. Can you tell?

A few years ago, I met this woman. We became sort-of friends. She was lovely....in some ways.
She was very religious. She would share her beliefs with me. I listened. I learned. I hesitated sharing my own spiritual experiences, but finally I did. She tried to convince me that all this personal magic I felt was Satanic. It was the devil trying to pull me away from the truth.

The Satan essay was written by a guy named Massimo Introvigne. He wrote something about Mary Poppins earlier and some people believed he had been trying to prove Mary Poppins was the devil. It seems that this was NOT Introvigne's intent.

Introgivne talks about Travers and how she was influenced by Gurdjieff. He says those wanting to learn about the spiritual philosophy might do well in starting with the Mary Poppins books.

Introvigne says, Although new religious and esoteric movements only amount to 1% of the general population in all Western countries, they have become a convenient scapegoat for all kind of social trouble. The secular anti-cult movement is mirrored, within Christianity, by a fundamentalist counter-cult movement that sees the direct work of the Devil behind all "cults".

I strongly agree with this. I find it so hard to get reasonable information about religious movements. How do we distinguish between a truly dangerous cult, and something that is just disturbing to Christians, Atheists, and mainstream society?

The only thing that disturbs me about Scientology is their relentless attempts to control the media. I believe that's scary and morally wrong. Other people have more complaints. They manipulate their followers! Yeah, that's bad. But what religion doesn't do that? They believe the nonsense of a wacky science fiction writer! Who cares? Jesus was a Jewish Carpenter. Can a science fiction writer not be wise and spiritual? Scientologists are nuts. Their whole religion is based around an alien named Xenu. Yeah. But it's okay to believe that every Sunday you're eating the body and blood of a guy who died thousands of years ago. It's okay to believe that Noah built and ark, and that snakes tempted Adam and Eve.

Scientology alienates people from their families. Yeah. It does. I know someone who alienated his wife after joining Alcoholics Anonymous. It led to their divorce. There are many movements out there that encourage people to make a change. Many of these movements also push people to associate with like-minded individuals, and to avoid those with habits the follower is trying to avoid.

Some People have died because of Scientology. They failed to get "proper" medical treatment. Yeah. How many people from other religions have died because they didn't seek out Western Medicine? And how many people have been failed by Western medicine?

Here's an interview with Valerie Lawson. She wrote a biography on Travers.

Travers and her father used to look at stars together. Jack and I went outside last night on our porch and looked at the stars. We should do that more often.

Traver's father died when she was seven. That would be soon after the whole plague thing. I can imagine she had quite the dramatic childhood.

Lawson says that Travers was embarrassed about being Australian. At least that's what she believes. Traver's son believes otherwise. Lawson says that when Travers would do lectures in America, she'd tell people she was from the British Commonwealth. She wouldn't say Australia.

Travers was mysterious about her life. Lawson says this comes from the Gurdjieff influences. I guess he pushed people to keep their origins a secret.

The child she adopted was the grandson of a writer. Travers consulted an astrologist to find out which twin to adopt. One was quiet. The other was not. Travers chose the loud crying one.

The child didn't know he was adopted, or a twin, until he was seventeen. He didn't learn this from Travers. He learned this from his own twin. What is this? The Parent Trap?

The son, Cammilus, never forgave his mother for that. Yeah. I can imagine it being hard to forgive something that like. Traver's choices seem quite selfish to me.

Lawson believes that Travers may have had a lesbian relationship at some point.

Lawson paints Travers out as being a rather unhappy person.

Travers wanted to be memorialized in Central Park. That hasn't happened...yet.

Lawson believes Travers wouldn't be too happy with the statue in Queensland.

Here's another essay. It talks about how people assume the author of Mary Poppins must be British. Yeah. I assumed the same thing.

The statue in Maryborough cost over forty-thousand dollars. Wow. Really? I didn't realize statutes cost so much.

This essay says that Travers didn't stay long in Maryborough. When she was three her family moved to Allora, a town near Toowoomba. That's about five hours south of Maryborough. So they would have missed that whole plague thing.

After Travers lost her father, the family moved to New South Wales.

Here's an article in the New Yorker.

It says the premier of the movie in Hollywood was a grand affair. There were Disney characters and celebrities.

The movie received a five minute standing ovation. Meanwhile Travers sat in the audience crying.

That's sad.

I do feel bad for her.

The essay talks about how Mary Poppins has become such a cultural icon. It says, It’s hard to find a book or an article about hiring a nanny that doesn’t make mention of the old girl.

Oh. Cool. There's a whole documentary on YouTube about Travers. I'll watch that.

It has scenes from the theatric musical. It looks good.

The director of the musical describes Mary Poppins as being strict, but humane. That's much better than the father I read about in Coldwater. He was strict and inhumane.

Oh cool! Traver's son is in the video! He's at 3:45.

One of Traver's friends is interviewed. She says Travers was complex. Who isn't?

The son says Travers would say The truth is one thing. Fact is another thing. Fiction doesn't equal a lie. That's an interesting philosophy. I'm not sure I agree with it. Well, I guess I do. I hate lying, but I'm totally okay with fiction. My personal opinion is that fiction is fine as long as it's not presented as being factual. There's a blog out there that I sometimes suspect is fake. That bothers me. The story told in the blog is a great one. I'd be fine with it if it was fiction.

I had a conversation with a guy on Facebook about this. It was regarding fake celebrities on the Internet. I'm totally okay with it, as long as the person lets people know that they're not real...that it's a parody. I'm not okay with people tricking others into thinking they're talking to the real celebrity. I wouldn't want that done to me. And if I was a celebrity, I would hate for someone to pretend that they're me.

The documentary says Travers acted supportive of the musical. She was fine with it as long as it wasn't like the movie.

The producer of the musical DID try to stay more faithful to the original books.

It's fun to see the actors rehearsing for the play...doing the songs without costumes and scenery.

Now I'm going to watch part 2 of the video.

Travers claims that she didn't invent Mary Poppins. She feels Mary Poppins flew into her head. I can believe that. I've heard other writers talk about this...the feeling that they're not creating, but instead acting more like a channel for some mystical person or world. I have felt that way when I've created my own works of fiction. There does come a time when the characters feel real. You feel like you're transcribing someone else's story. This is when the writing is great....the words just flow out. I loved this part of it all. What I didn't like was the opposite--the time where I felt it all had to come from me. There are those times where it doesn't flow.  I struggle to make things up.

The documentary picks out some untruths about Travis's claim though. Travers says the character popped into her brain when she was sick that one time. However, at an earlier date she had published a short story with the Mary Poppins character. Did she forget about that, or was she reinventing history to make herself seem more interesting?

Travers got her made-up last name from her father's first name. That was a sweet way to memorialize him.

She was a beautiful baby (6:40).

Valerie Lawson says Travers believed she was Irish in a past life. It seems she wanted to feel a connection to somewhere outside of Australia.

In Ireland, Lawson worked with a writer and editor named George Russell. She had heard of him, and was eager to have him publish her work. It's believed that Russell is the one who encouraged and inspired Travers.

Lawson believes that maybe Travers and Russell were lovers at one point. She has looked at hundreds of letters written from Russell to Travers.

Travers told her son that his dad had died in the tropics. It was HER dad who died in the tropics. The son's father was still alive. Travers kept that secret.

Okay. Time for video 3.

It seems there actually HAS been other productions of Mary Poppins. (:35)

In the 1940's, Travers lived in New York. She did this to avoid the World War II bombings in London.

When Travers requested script approval for the movie, this idea and practice was pretty much unheard of.

A Disney historian says that the Disney writers of Peter Pan didn't have J.M Barrie critiquing their script. Lewis Carroll didn't critique scripts of Alice in Wonderland. Were they not dead already?

Yeah. They were both dead. It's a little hard to request script approval when you're dead. I guess if you have a good Ouija Board.....

It seems Walt Disney felt that the Travis endorsement of the film would benefit the whole project. I don't think he expected her to disapprove of so much.

Disney avoided meeting with Travers. He left that job to the song writers. They say meeting with her was very difficult.

However, even though Travers disliked many plans for the movie, she was excited about some aspects of it.

Starting at 5:39, they have video of the film premier. There's a lot of balloons.

Traver's son says he never heard his mother say a good word about the completed film.

I'm at part 4 now.

Travers died in England.

She visited Japan. She was interested in the Buddhist culture there.

There's a Buddhist statue she owned that she loved. Traver's best friend said it made her calm. The son says she loved it because she bought it at a cheap price. That's kind of funny.

The son really doesn't seem too happy with his mother. He does seem a bit angry. He believes taking one twin was a mistake. I think I probably agree. No, I definitely do agree.

The son seems to be saying that his mother treated him like an experiment. It's like he was her project. He would try to get information from her.  The truth. The more he asked questions, the more she would retreat.

The son was sent to boarding school.

I wonder who his biological parents were. The grandfather was a writer; a biographer. Why did his children want to give up their twins? Maybe they were too young to be parents?

In the Guidjieff movement, there is a type of dance. Traver's friend believes that Traver's included aspects of these dances in the Mary Poppins books. The choreographer of the musical talks about how her books have a lot of references to dance. There's a connection between dancing and flying. Dancing is the nearest we can get to flying. I disagree. We can fly in our dreams. I think that's the closest we can get.

Travers spent a period of time living with Native Americans. They gave her a secret name and told her she mustn't tell anyone what it is.

Travers says she doesn't like when people she doesn't know say her name. Her Christian name. I guess that refers to the name she was born with.

I was going to say that's weird, but maybe I can relate. I don't like hearing people say my birth name. And it's not that it's an ugly name. I just don't like to hear people say it. I used to think I didn't like the name, and that's why I shortened it. But maybe I had the Travers thing going on. In my early childhood, I had a best friend named Elizabeth. Later, she insisted on people calling her Beth. I always thought that was odd. I thought Elizabeth was a much prettier name. But maybe she felt the same way I did. It's all quite strange.

Travers insisted that there be no memorial service for her, and no biographies written. Travers didn't want people discussing her after she died. Oops, sorry. I'm just another person joining in on the attack.

Now I'm on part 5 of the video.

Travis's friend said she didn't know Travis was Australian until 1991. She told Travis she was going to visit Australia. Travis revealed that she had spent her childhood there.

A guy in the documentary says something quite profound. He says these writers who create childhood icons don't necessarily love children. Instead they might be trying to create the childhood they wish they had.

Travers spent her late childhood and teen years in Bowral New South Wales. This is where they lived after Traver's father died. The rent of their home was paid for by Traver's great aunt. The aunt in some ways resembles Mary Poppins. For example, she carried a carpet bag.

Oh. This is sad. When Travis was ten, her mother got very upset and threatened to commit suicide. What a horrible thing for a child to deal with. The documentary said Travers had the job of calming her younger siblings. They didn't know what was going on. She sat them down and entertained them with stories.

Travis' father had a drinking problem. Lawson says this was why the family moved to Allora. The bank people made them move, I suppose. The move wasn't just a location change. The family also suffered a large financial change. They had to downgrade their lifestyle.

The family had less servants in Allora, but they did have a maid. One of them carried an umbrella.

When her father died, young Travis liked to believe her father hadn't really died. She liked to believe he was in the stars. Later when she wrote her novel, Travis included a lot of stars in them.

All right. Now for part 6.

The video has a good ending. In the last lines, someone quotes from the books. Mary Poppins is asked where her home is. She answers I'm at home wherever I am.

I like that. Well, sort of. When I'm at Costco, I don't feel like Costco is my home. When we go to the zoo, I don't feel like the zoo is at home.

When I'm out of town though, I do feel like the place we're sleeping at is our home. When we stayed in Sydney, I felt like our rented apartment was our home. When we go to Disney World, I feel like our hotel room is our home.

I don't know how I feel about Travers. I guess it's all a bit complicated. I feel there's something so sad about her....this need to hide herself from the world. She seems so unhappy with her past, that she'd rather recreate it.

I understand longing to be something we're not. I want to move to Australia. I want to leave my own country behind. At times, I have disliked America. At times I have been embarrassed to be American. But I don't think I have ever tried to disown this aspect of myself. I am who I am. I don't think there's a need to hide stuff.

Most of us need to escape into a fantasy world at times. But I think Travers went a little bit too far. She didn't just hide her own truths, she hid truths that belonged to her son. To me, she seems a bit too cold and dishonest.

I don't know if I'll ever look at Mary Poppins in the same way again. In a way, I wish I had stayed ignorant about all this. Sometimes, it DOES feel better to hide from the facts. I'll agree with Travers there.

4 comments:

Andrew said...

Very interesting Dina. One out of the box.

Dina said...

Andrew,

What does "one out of the box" mean? Is that related to "thinking out of the box"...or is it different?

Andrew said...

It means extra special. Just guessing but maybe buying a new one in a box as opposed to buying off the shelf or second hand.

Dina said...

Andrew,

That's very sweet : )

Thank you.