Monday, March 14, 2011

Mary Poppins 1.0

I am sorting my books, because some of them must go. This is tough for me because I love my books almost as much as I love my children and it causes me pain to part with them. But it is me or them. I was looking through some old books recently and came across my childhood copy of Mary Poppins, a books I loved so much that both the boards were gone.

This was my favorite book as a child. The movie, to my mind, vulgarized the story, or stories, as each chapter was a self-contained story. While Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews were charming and talented, they were much too sweet and lovable to be faithful to the original story. Mary Poppins was tart and put up with no nonsense from her charges, from whom she expected, and received, complete obedience.

I loved the foreignness of the book. The fact that the children had crumpets for tea, the fact that they had a meal called "tea" at all, were exotic and delightful. They celebrated Guy Fawkes Day, under a cold November sky, with fireworks and bonfires, and a policeman with a helmet--all of which were exciting as Timbuktoo to an American child.

Other things I loved: the children slept in the Night Nursery, all five of them, as did Mary Poppins. Like a school dormitory or a hospital ward, except that it was so British, with a fire blazing cozily in the fireplace and the aforementioned crumpets--or possibly scones, for tea, and the warm room reflected in the window above the night sky, and the bossy but reassuring Mary Poppins in charge.

Mary Poppins did not smile often, was not sugary, and the idea of her breaking out in song was unthinkable. She was much more inclined to look down her nose and sniff disapprovingly. She looked like "a Dutch doll," was vain, and loved to catch a glimpse of herself in a shop window, wearing her best hat or carrying her new umbrella and looking very smart indeed.

It was suggested in the film that the plot involved Mr Banks, the father of the children, learning that he needed to have more involvement with his offspring. Stuff and nonsense--as Mary Poppins would have said. The parents were background figures, unreal as scarecrows. The children lived in a special, self-contained world, where quotidian people and creatures, and even inanimate objects, were invested in a glow of magic.


paul mitchell said...

I do not think that I ever read Mary Poppins, but I know that I never saw the movie.

But, get rid of books? I can't do it, even the ones that I hated and will never read again. Currently, I have thirteen or fourteen legal-sized bankers boxes full of books because I do not have enough shelving.

miriam said...

I have to get rid of some of these books--they're taking over the house.

jzdro said...

Did you read them all? Including the one in which she went to the bottom of the sea and honored on her birthday by the most ancient tortoise in the world?

My Poppins books are about 5x7 hardcover, in various colors.

Please don't toss them. Libraries throw out all the good books nowadays. So you must not. Find a child to whom to read them.

miriam said...

Mary Poppins can stay.