"I have the same feeling about rocking chairs as I do about merry-go-rounds. You can go places in both, you know."
P. L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins books, dispensed no-nonsense advice (your favorite flavor) and tart opinions last night after her arrival in Cambridge to be Radcliffe's "writer-in-residence."
She saw Disney's version of Mary Poppins--"Oh, Lord yes, I did, I did"--but would say no more. She wouldn't tell, either, if he was planning another Mary Poppins book.
"As soon as you tell about something you're going to write, it evaporates," Miss Travers reprimanded an inquisitive reporter. "If you're going to have a baby, you can't pull it out after three months and say, 'What does it look like now,'"
"And you must quote me precisely," she said, looking at the reporter's notes. "If it's going to be me it has to be me. Reporting must have the same precision as poetry."
Her interest in Radcliffe began when she met Helen Keller at a dinner party. They shared a taxi home and had a long argument about Shakespeare's heroines; thereafter they were close friends.
Miss Keller told Miss Travers she had gone to Radcliffe. "The word Radcliffe stuck in my mind as a place, a real place," Miss Travers said. She asked if Whitman Hall, where she will live, was named after the poet. When she was told it was named after Sarah Whitman, she replied, "After Sarah and Walt. I accept history, but I can do with it what I want."
If she was vague about how she would spend her time this year, she was even more mysterious about when she would leave.
"Are you going to be here long?"
"Until the wind changes."