As from Saving Mr. Banks

A Lively Oracle
A Centennial Celebration of P.L. Travers, Creator of Mary Poppins
by P.L. Travers
Literature / Biography / Fairytales


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From the creator of

Mary Poppins!

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Do you know that the legendary creator of Mary Poppins

was a brilliant, mysterious woman with wide-ranging

accomplishments? That she found deep poems in the

silence of the bush, played Shakespearean roles in the

Australian outback, crossed the world to plunge barefoot

through Irish bogs and come under the tutelage of W.B.

Yeats and George Bernard Shaw, received a secret name

from Navajo elders, dined with G.I. Gurdjieff, raked sand

gardens in Japan . . . and that Celtic literary genius A.E.

(George Russell) was virtually a second father to her?

Pamela L. Travers passionately celebrated story, fairytale,

and mythic image. She co-founded and was a guiding

light for Parabola magazine for many years. Friends and

colleagues celebrated her on the centennial of her birth

(1899) with this Lively Oracle. These tributes, stories,

interviews, and analyses of her work—all from people

who knew her—recount delightful facets of one of the

20th century's most creative and memorable minds.

Table of Contents

Introduction, by Ellen Dooling Draper

Part One: Biographical Notes

    Refining Nectar, by Ben Haggarty

    Ever Afterwards, by Adrian House

Part Two: Mary Poppins

    Worlds Beyond Worlds: A Critical Study of the Mary Poppins Books,
         by Jenny Koralek

    How Are They Going to Make That into A Movie? P.L. Travers, Julie
    Andrews, and Mary Poppins, by Brian Sibley

Part Three: The Other Books

    Hanuman in Putney, by James George

    About the Sleeping Beauty: The Veil Grows Transparent—
     Or Does It?
         by Martha Heyneman

    A Good Gift, by Brian Sibley

Part Four: Themes

    Exploring the Homeland of Myth: The Parabola Essays,

         by Ellen Dooling Draper

    What is the Story? by Paul Jordan-Smith

    A Writer Worth Her Salt: In the Editorial Kitchen with
    Pamela Travers, by Rob Baker

    Journeyer Back to Here and Now, by Trebbe Johnson

    Mary Poppins as a Zen Monk, by Feenie Ziner

Part Five: Conversations, Lectures, Interviews

    The First Storytellers: A Conversation, P. L. Travers and
    Sir Laurens van der Post

    No Forgetting, by Jonathan Cott

    At Home with Pamela Travers: The Radcliffe Lectures,
          by Philip Zaleski

Part Six: Three Articles by P.L. Travers

    I Never Wrote for Children

    Myth, Symbol, and Tradition

    The Fairy Tale as Teacher

Afterword: Pamela Travers from A to Z, by Jenny Koralek



Publishers Weekly review

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 whois not th  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 illu-

minating.  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

fairytales, "where the fox and the hare say goodnight to each other."  

This is an unusual, rewarding volume.