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A Lively Oracle: A Centennial Celebration of P.L. Travers, Magical Creator of Mary Poppins Paperback – November 2, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

We learn in this fascinating collection of essays and interviews that P.L. Travers, the British creator of Mary Poppins, bristled when asked about dates and places and influences because she knew that banal facts could never convey her sense of living in the midst of a great mystery. Offering only the barest sketch of her outer life (Travers was born in Australia and became a student of the mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, W.B. Yeats and others), this work celebrates Travers as an oracle of insights and connections that came to her because she had mastered the art and discipline of opening up to reality. Draper, former editor of Parabola magazine (which Travers helped found), and Koralek, an English children's author and friend of Travers's, present a Travers who is not the sum of her biographical parts but a soul in question, a pilgrim on an ever-deepening journey toward an unknown home. "Perhaps we are looking for miracles," wrote Travers. "Most certainly we are looking for meaning. We want the fox not to eat the hare, we want the opposites reconciled." Not every piece here shines. Reminiscences by Jim George and Paul Jordan-Smith come off as self-aggrandizing rather than illuminating. The best entries, however, including interviews by Jonathan Cott and Sir Laurens Van der Post, and essays by Martha Heyneman and others, explore the work and mind of a woman who was seeking that place of profound connection and reconciliation we read about in fairy tales, "where the fox and the hare say goodnight to each other." This is an unusual, rewarding volume. (Dec.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Larson Publications (November 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0943914949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0943914947
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Madia Jr. on July 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
Everyone knows Disney's Mary Poppins, but what of Mary's creator, P. L. Travers? This collection of twenty essays (three by Travers herself) not only reconnects the author with her most famous work, but illuminates the vibrant thoughts, expressive writing, and lifetime of exploration into myths, fairy tales, and folklore that were the true passions of this gifted writer.

The Introduction gives the reader glimpses into the breadth and scope of Travers' life and outlines the vast terrain to be covered. In these pages we meet a private woman who asked in her will that no biographies be written about her. Instead, the editors have gathered an impressive array of authors, editors, and friends who knew Travers professionally and personally to shed some light on her life.

Part One comprises two essays, which are an invaluable resource in understanding Travers' origins and influences. Part Two contains two essays on Mary Poppins. Koralek's piece looks at the six books in the series and their relationship to the Disney film. Sibley's contribution elaborates on the Disney adaptation and Travers' role in the journey. Sibley is in a unique position to discuss this intriguing tale of artistic wills--he worked with Travers on a script for a never-produced sequel to the film. What is of interest here is just how different the film is from the intent of the author. Travers, who served as a consultant on the film (in title, at least), resisted relinquishing the rights for a full decade after meeting Walt Disney, and Sibley details "many tempestuous meetings" between Travers and the production staff. Part Three considers Friend Monkey, About the Sleeping Beauty, and The Fox at the Manger.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By pljake on January 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
If you loved Mary Poppins and were also intrigued by the movie “Saving Mr. Banks,” I think you will love this book.The essays are beautifully written and the book also contains some wonderful correspondence between Julie Andrews and Pamela Travers. After learning more about Travers, it's no wonder that I was so captivated by her character of Mary Poppins! She was a child of the Australian outback, actress, author, seeker, lover of myth, and mystic. I’m so glad to know her a little more through this book. I just bought the complete set of Mary Poppins on my Kindle and can’t wait to read them again.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“For many years, Pamela lived in preparation for death. As she finally approached, barefoot, the flower-shaped central stone(known variously as Ciel, Jerusalem, The Holy City, and la Mort) of the Maze at Chartres, she came to the following:

Well death, what have I to bring you? Only this – my burden! And, as well, certain scraps of meaning. For, if my life happened to me, there have been moments – may they be counted – when I have happened to it… Let me not, therefore, be a Sabine woman, part of your plunder, borne off in protest. I would encounter darkness as a bride and eat of the pomegranate!
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on February 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Most will be familiar with the author P.L. Travers as the creator of the Mary Poppins series: this biographical sketch expands upon the Travers details, covering her enthusiasm for poetry, her world travels, her acting abilities and encounters with sages and famous personalities. Articles by a variety of contributors provide many different aspects of Pamela Travers' personality and achievements.
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