Non-fiction––meaning true, real, what happened. Don’t putz with the facts, tell them. If you want to emphasize one over the other to prove your thesis, well, okay then, but let us know. Otherwise, it is just plain annoying!
I’m reading MARY POPPINS, SHE WROTE: THE LIFE OF P.L. TRAVERS. And Why? is what I keep asking myself. I’m about 9% of the way through the book [Kindle Edition] and am gagging. To call this a sympathetic biography of Travers is like calling milk chocolate slightly sweet. Yikes! It’s hard to tell where P.L. or Lyndon [as the author refers to her] begins and Valerie Lawson’s idea of Travers ends. Quotes like “Allora was a perfect place for dreaming. Quiet, far from anywhere, the town was bitingly cold in winter and intensely hot in summer–extremes that helped her imagination take flight as she sat before the fire and gazed into it’s flame…” Seriously? Triple yikes. And, Lyndon’s continual search for the father figure she lost is just plain exasperating.
My problem is the lack of distance between Travers and the biographerLawson. While apparently Ms. Travers left copious notations and diaries, she wanted to remain elusive and mysterious. After a 9% look into her life, I say, “Okay, Ms. Travers, you can stay a mystery, because you are quite dull and uninteresting, at least in Ms. Lawson’s telling.” This book is a slog.
So? Why did I read this? Well, I watched Mary Poppins, the movie, when it came out without a back thought for it being a book or not. So now, when other writers were talking about how special the books were, I thought I would read. In this instance, probably the only one I can think of, I liked the movie better. True, I’m an adult reading this now, after hearing all the hype about how fabulous the books are, and how they are not supposed to be children’s books [but they read them anyway—sigh–who didn’t do that?] and be about all this other-worldliness. But I don’t think I would have been agog over them as a kid. I was reading NANCY DREW, and Sir Walter Scott’s IVANHOE and HEART OF THE MIDLOTHIAN, this would have been pap!
Haven’t seen the movie yet, but will. I’m amused by the fact that Emma Thompson refers to Walt Disney as an old sod. Comments come out, yet again, about how difficult Disney was, how harsh, determined in the face of artistic creativity. And yeah, I get upset at the Disney version of the Greek Myths and American folk tales, worrying that children believe this is the way it was written. But wait! His name was on the door. When you choose to work for a person who has a view of the future, you implicitly buy into that view. Roy and Walt created an industry, [yeah, maybe someone else would have and could have but they were the ones who did.] Give credit where credit is due. I admire individuals who have a driving passion to get things done their way and in the process create a demand where there is none.
I have little admiration for someone who wants to remain elusive, rewrites their own history, effectively lies about their ancestry and pretends to not care, i.e., P.L. Travers. And, If she wanted all of those things, then, hey, just give interviews and torch the pack of papers and notations. The BBC Video by Victoria Coren Mitchell is worth a look. Still a paean to Travers, but still, a little more distance makes a huge difference.
I may or may not finish this book. Sigh. When will I learn that libraries are so much more effective.