Sunday, October 9, 2016

Janet Frame's Angel in Turkish translation

To be published later this month in Turkey: Soframda Bir Melek, a first edition of Janet Frame's autobiography in Turkish translation. (Yapi Kredi, October 2016)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Janet Frame Memorial Award - last call for applications

The New Zealand Society of Authors is calling for applications for the
Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature 2016.

The deadline for applications is 21st October 2016. Recipients of the award must be members of the NZSA. For further criteria and details about the award please see the NZSA website.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

The 10th Janet Frame Memorial Lecture

The 10th Janet Frame Memorial Lecture will be delivered on Friday 16th of September 2016, at Auckland Public Library, 44-46 Lorne St, Auckland, from 5 to 6 pm.

The venue is the Whare Wānanga, Level 2 of Auckland Central Library.

The Janet Frame Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Joan Rosier-Jones, 2016-17 President of Honour for the New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ Inc).

Her subject is:

‘Authors, an Endangered Species: Changes in copyright and contracts.’

This event will kick off the inaugural NATIONAL WRITERS FORUM to be held on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th of September.

Observant readers may recall that there has already been a Janet Frame Memorial Lecture earlier in 2016, delivered by the previous President of Honour Philip Temple.

The JF Lecture has been a moveable feast for the last decade, being delivered in various cities and associated with several different literary events and festivals and it is to be hoped that it has now found a permanent home as part of the new WRITERS FORUM.

All the best for a successful and memorable weekend!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A poster for Janet Frame's birthday

'Before I Get into Sleep with You' by Janet Frame
Phantom Billstickers have produced a new Janet Frame poem poster to celebrate her birthday, the 28th of August. It's a short and very sweet piece.
Happy Birthday, Janet!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Mount Helicon

Mount Helicon, a school book of poems (1937 edition)

An excerpt from Janet Frame's first volume of autobiography To the Is-Land:

I began to explore the poetry book, and to my amazement I discovered that many of the poets knew about Myrtle’s death and how strange it was without her. After the funeral was over the visitors had gone and my new lessons arrived, the everydayness of life had returned; yet in each day there was blankness, a Myrtle-missing part, and it was upon this blankness that the poets in Mount Helicon were writing the story of my feelings.

I could scarcely believe their depth of understanding. Mother, who revered all poets, was right, as usual, and her habit of murmuring from time to time ‘Only the poets know, only the poets know’ was now explicable to me; I understood also why she wrote so many of her verses about poets: there was the one I had recited at school.

He was a poet, he loved the wild thunder
as it crashed in the Universe. Now he sleeps under,
under the grass he loved. Stilled now his hand
only a poet’s heart could understand.
He heard the whispering of the pine trees.
Always within his heart, sweet melodies.
Glories of morning awoke in his heart.
He was himself of nature apart.
Softly he slumbers. Does someone care?
Nature showers o’er him leaves from her hair.

Mother sought the poets not necessarily for their poems but for the romantic idea of them, as if they might be a more tangible Second Coming, and when she began her familiar praise of them, Dad became jealous, as he became jealous of her references to Christ, and his jealousy always resulted in scorn.

A long poem in Mount Helicon, ‘The Lost Mate’ from Sea Drift by Walt Whitman, told everything I was feeling – the two mocking birds, the disappearance of one, the long search by its mate, with all the false alarms and pondered might-have-beens, the anger and regret and the desperate reasoning that enlisted the help of magic, ending in the failure to find what was lost and the letting go of all hope of finding it. I understood all the deceptions of thought and feeling which tried to persuade the mourning bird that there’d been no loss, that its mate would soon be home, had simply ‘gone away’ for the day or had been delayed and would be home some time, ‘you’ll see’. I read the poem to my youngest sister, Chicks, who also understood it. She and I read the poem again and again. I was amazed that my book should contain other such poems about Myrtle – ‘Annabel Lee’ – ‘It was many and many a year ago / In a kingdom by the sea . . .’ A kingdom by the sea! Oamaru, without a doubt. Oamaru with its wild sea beyond the breakwater and the friendly bay safe within, with the sound of the sea in our ears day and night.

There was yet another poem, ‘Evelyn Hope’:

Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead!
Sit and watch by her side an hour.
That is her bookshelf, this her bed;
She plucked that piece of geranium-flower,
Beginning to die too, in the glass . . .
Sixteen years old when she died!

What marvellous knowledge of the poets who could see through my own life, who could be appearing to write poems of people in Oamaru, which everyone knew was halfway between the equator and the South Pole, forty-five degrees south, and which yet was not nearly so well known as Auckland or Wellington or Sydney or London or Paris, any cities in the Northern Hemisphere where many of the poets (who were dead) had lived!

(From 'Once Paumanok', Chapter 20 in To the Is-Land by Janet Frame)


Monday, July 11, 2016

CK Stead Is The Only Solipsist Here

"Stead is the only solipsist here."

Denis Harold has reviewed CK Stead's new collection of 'reviews, replies and reminiscences' in Landfall Review Online (1st July 2016). In Stead's new tome there is an excoriating attack by Stead not just on Janet Frame's last published novel In the Memorial Room, but he also uses the soapbox to cast aspersions on Frame's personality as well as on the integrity of the charitable trust she founded to care for her work after her death.

Now, the vicious undermining of the work and character and heritage of a woman Stead once affected to call 'friend' is no surprise to anyone. He is known to be that kind of backstabber. The smiling assassin type that is apparently so beloved by some of the New Zealand public for some sad reason.

As usual, Stead has had a go at a lot of other targets too, including Ted Hughes and Eleanor Catton. And yet the publicity around his book calls it 'less controversial' than his previous offerings. Bizarrely, this fraudulent claim seems to have been swallowed by most reviewers. On the whole, Stead seems to be taken at his own estimation as he wallows in his own small pond.

In his review, Denis Harold picks out a couple of the false claims Stead makes about Janet Frame. First, Stead says of In the Memorial Room:

 "This is a looking-in-darkly rather than a looking-out-bravely novel … which makes surprisingly little, nothing in fact, of the visual lift offered by its Côte d’Azur setting."
"nothing, in fact" !!

Apart from Stead's missing the fact that the protagonist of the novel is actually going blind during the course of the novel so that his not spouting great swathes of purple prose about the delightful scenic environs might in fact be appropriate, it is not true that Frame misses the surroundings. They are there on every page, described as artfully and thoughtfully as ever. The bitter old reviewer is the only one who is blind to the charms of the prose. His aim in calling Frame a 'solipsist' is clear: to discourage anyone from even approaching a Janet Frame novel to find out for themselves what is really there. At least one reviewer has shown himself to take Stead at his word and assume Stead's criticisms of Frame's novel have been 'justified' despite not having read it himself!

And again the question of Frame's Buddhist leanings arises. These leanings are on the record and well authenticated. But it all appears to enrage Stead. I can only laugh at that. He fictionalised her many years ago as a Buddhist and now he regrets that it makes her seem too sane - so he tries to deny it! And claim himself as the Buddhist! If he really did not know of Frame's interest in Buddhism then it shows that he wasn't much of the friend he used to like to claim he was. Or perhaps he has just forgotten.

 Links to further reading:

A brief excerpt from Janet Frame's novel In the Memorial Room

Pamela Gordon's response to CK Stead's latest attack on the Frame estate

A collection of quotes from international reviews of In the Memorial Room

'Judge Time' Landfall Review Online

"the rich-looking famous and the famous-looking rich"

Excerpt from In the Memorial Room by Janet Frame:

I had been in Menton for two months. It was now March. The winter in its final convulsive display of life had arrested all transport to and from the mountains and through the country. Deep drifts of snow, gales, high seas, floods, once again became the chief actors in the drama outlined, criticised and photographed by the newspapers; once again tenants were forced to leave their immobiliers, threatened by yet another déroulement. Snow, it was said, had never fallen so low on the slopes of the mountains, so near the sea, nor had so many pleasure-boats been lost on the Mediterranean, nor had the Mediterranean been so treacherous in its impulsive apparently changeling storms of no visible origin.

Nor had the citrus crop been so abundant, and faithful in taste and colour. Behind special screens in the city’s garden square, preparations were being made for the annual lemon festival, the artistic display of lemons, oranges and all other fruits of the region; everyone waited anxiously for the counterfeit winter to admit its nature; on the slopes and in the valleys of the mountain, the arrière-pays, the scent of the flowering mimosa hung in the air; the grey lavender buds began to open even from as low as the rock where they grew, to prepare the change in the colour of the sky that in three, four, five weeks would be challenged, rivalled, enhanced in its colour by the blossoming trees and flowers.

Everywhere, every year there is weather described as unusual, not by the visitors but by those who know best, the inhabitants. The old blind man, one hundred and fifteen years old, who lived away up in the mountain village of Sainte-Agnès and spent his day, if the weather were fine, on the stone seat in the sun outside his small house, watching the people, mostly tourists, come and go through the narrow cobbled streets, was reported as saying he had never known the snow so deep. He was not afraid to go out in it, he said; indeed, on the day he was interviewed by the newspaper, on his birthday, he was standing out in the snow, with an old straw hat pulled tightly over his blind eyes, wearing a bright blue nylon raincoat (buttoned), though he nevertheless kept raising his face to the light. The winter had been terrible, he said, authoritatively from his one hundred and fifteen years. And he knew. He might be blind – the bandits had come from the mountains, attacked him and blinded him, his family had descended upon him and carried off all his belles choses – but he knew how to assess the seasons from one year to another. His authority gave the city a sudden sense of pride in the unusual weather. The mayor, on a visit to Paris, remarked about it to a newspaper reporter and his remark appeared in both a morning and an evening Paris newspaper and was reflected back to the local Nice-Matin, like the effortless journey of a satellite swinging – as far as we on earth know – soundlessly through space.

Then, suddenly, for the opening of the lemon festival, the sun shone, the snow melted, and people flocked to the city – very old mountain-people, their mountain gait strangely unbalancing them on the wide, level promenade; guests from the many villas, pensions and hotels; visitors in fast cars from Italy and north and west of Monte Carlo, the rich-looking famous and the famous-looking rich, the unsuntanned and the suntanned; and the crooks, les escrocs, the pick-pockets, malfaiteurs, cambrioleurs.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Stupid, stupid Wikipedia.

Wikipedia Entry

More and more I am seeing around the internet (and not just on the internet) the wrong claim that Janet Frame's real name was Nene Janet Paterson Clutha and that Janet Frame was just a 'pen name'.

Where are they getting this rubbish from?

I went to have a look at Wikipedia. Yep, that is where they are getting it from.

Some ignorant know-nothing know-it-all put it there.

Janet Frame was born Janet Paterson Frame in 1924 and for her whole life she used the name Janet Frame for her writing.

In 1958 she changed her name by deed poll to 'Nene Janet Paterson Clutha'. She lived anonymously under the pseudonym, if you like, instead of writing under a pseudonym as so many authors do.

She continued to use the name 'Janet Frame' for her writing.

So Nene Clutha was her 'real name' if you like, or rather her 'legal name', but that isn't what innocent readers take from it. They take it that she was born Nene Clutha.

And Janet Frame was indeed her 'pen name' - but only from 1958 onwards. And it was also her original 'real name'.

It is complicated. The Wikipedia biography, such as it is, never mentions the deed poll change of name. It is very easy for ignorant people such as the busybodies who tinker with Wikipedia, when faced with the two names, to make incorrect assumptions.

On Wikipedia, random factoids are presented as if they all have equal significance, which in the real world, they do not.

Thanks to the confusion and misrepresentation on Wikipedia, the contagion spreads out beyond. (And there are more errors there of fact and bias than just her name!)

Wikipedia is toxic as well as stupid

Of course there are not just ignorant editors on Wikipedia, there are malicious ones as well, and they have also had free reign with the Janet Frame article.

As an example of toxic interference with an article on the life and work of Janet Frame, there are in fact MORE words in her article devoted to a novel written about her, than to any of her own works.

In the last section concerning 'Posthumous works' there is MORE SPACE devoted to Janet Frame's greatest enemy Patrick Evans and his various derogatory fictional treatments of her, than there is space given to her OWN works.

Word count in Janet Frame's 'Death and Posthumous works' for her own TEN posthumous titles (not all are even mentioned there)
= 197 words

Word count within that same section for her obsessed academic stalker Patrick Evans and his ONE exploitative novel he wrote completely changing the facts of her life
= 236 words


Everything they say about the misogyny of Wikipedia is true. Women novelists are particularly badly served. Janet Frame is grievously unfairly treated.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

LitHub: Excerpt from Janet Frame's JAY TO BEE

An excerpt of five letters from Jay to Bee
can be read online at:
 >all kinds of mentionable, unmentionable, tangible, intangible, monostitched, laconic, desperate, deliberate, makeshift, conclusive, unanswerable, goatish, porcine, mulish, zoomorphic, dovelike, recoverable, conservative, waterproof, bloodsucking, unauthorized, fictitious, authentic
from me and Thesaurus<

An important new survey of aspects of NZ literary history

Here's a new reference book that is worth taking a look at:

 A History of New Zealand Literature

Edited by Mark Williams
Cambridge University Press 2016
ISBN 9781107085350

 From the publisher's website:

 "A History of New Zealand Literature traces the genealogy of New Zealand literature from its first imaginings by Europeans in the eighteenth century. Beginning with a comprehensive introduction that charts the growth of, and challenges to, a nationalist literary tradition, the essays in this History illuminate the cultural and political intricacies of New Zealand literature, surveying the multilayered verse, fiction and drama of such diverse writers as Katherine Mansfield, Allen Curnow, Frank Sargeson, Janet Frame, Keri Hulme, Witi Ihimaera and Patricia Grace. Written by a host of leading scholars, this History devotes special attention to the lasting significance of colonialism, biculturalism and multiculturalism in New Zealand literature. A History of New Zealand Literature is of pivotal importance to the development of New Zealand writing and will serve as an invaluable reference for specialists and students alike."

 I have had a quick look at this book at my local library and it does look very good.

The chapter 'Janet Frame: Myths of Authorship' was written by Marc Delrez who is easily the smartest scholar currently writing about Frame. I don't agree with everything he says (when I can understand it!) but at least I can see that he is not stupid enough to fall for the biographical fallacy that has seduced a few of the weaker-minded Frame scholars over the years.

Many other interesting chapters in the ToC and many other reliable names of contributors too, indicate a valuable addition to the literature. Am looking forward to reading more.

'Consensus favors familiar myths': the problem with Wikipedia

"Wikipedia relies on “consensus” as the final arbiter of content, rather than a ruling board of supposedly expert editors, as in, say, the Columbia Encyclopedia. Wikipedia’s continual give-and-take corrections work well for math and science, less well for history and literature where consensus is sometimes ill-informed. Dubious romantic or heroic stories about larger-than-life figures like W.B. Yeats or Ernest Hemingway cannot be dislodged because consensus favors familiar myths."

~ Edward Mendelson, from 'In the Depths of the Digital Age'
The New York Review of Books
June 23 2016

(Edward Mendelson is, by the way, the literary executor of WH Auden.)

Goldfish bones

Huesos de Jilguero (Universidad Veracruzana, 2015) is a selection of poems by Janet Frame in Spanish translation, published by the University of Veracruz, Mexico, with various translators. It's a bilingual edition (216 pages) and the poems are chosen from both of Janet Frame's poetry collections The Pocket Mirror and The Goose Bath.

Here is the link to the publisher' website.

Here's a blog review of the book (in Spanish).

There was earlier this year a literary panel on the subject of the book at FILU 2016:

13:00 a 14:00 horas,
Presentación del libro Huesos de jilguero. Antología poética, de Janet Frame, editado por la UV
Participan: Nair Anaya y Camila Krauss. Modera: Nina Crangle

And another event.

Looks like you can buy it online here.
The title "Bones of the goldfinch" has been taken from Janet Frame's poem 'Goldfinch' first published in The Goose Bath ten years ago in 2006.
Here are the last two stanzas of the poem:

My goldfinch
bones like wires growing
yellow paper flowers
threaded light like a bead in his eye

his beak hissing
for the fresh air
–Lift the roof O my child
and trust the sky.


The Janet Frame Memorial Lecture 2016

 This year the annual Janet Frame Memorial Lecture was given by New Zealand Society of Authors President of Honour Philip Temple at the Wellington Festival in the City Gallery.
Here is a link to the text of Dr Temple's lecture.
I wasn't able to attend the Wellington event but happily Philip Temple recently reprised his talk for a Dunedin audience.
His subject was 'Where we were, where we are now' and it was very interesting to hear his experiences from a long and illustrious career. His talk covered many changes in the landscape of New Zealand writing. It was sobering to hear of the time when it was 'risible' to say your career was as a freelance writer.
Like Janet Frame, Philip Temple is one of the few New Zealand authors who have managed to live off their writing alone.

More information about Philip Temple's life and work can be found on his website.
He is currently writing the biography of novelist Maurice Shadbolt.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"Delightful Mail" ~ New York Times

Jay to Bee: Janet Frame's Letters to William Theophilus Brown is out now in the United States edition, a handsome beautifully produced jacketed hardback published by Counterpoint Press.

"Fans of authors' correspondence will find a delightful example of the genre in Jay to Bee ... "Frame's playful spirit can be seen in the many doodles she included in her correspondence, as well as in her words."
~ The New York Times Book Review


"A curtain call by one of the world’s greatest authors" - The Australian

Here is a collection of excerpts from reviews of Janet Frame's novel In the Memorial Room, a novel that she wrote in 1974 but that was not published until 2013.

Janet Frame herself named this novel "In the Memorial Room" in a journal she kept in France while she was writing it, but amongst her friends and family she referred to it as "the novel I wrote in France". In her last years in Dunedin Frame pulled out the old manuscript and worked on it. She was known to have said "it's rather good" and "I wish I had done something with it".  She also fictionalised the novel in her masterpiece Living in the Maniototo, where it was referred to as "the Watercress Novel".

New Zealand Herald:

"Reading this is like finding an unwrapped gift long-hidden at the back of the wardrobe. The novel is quite unlike anything else Frame penned, yet she is recognisable in every pore of every sentence and of every word. Her love of language is infectious and so, too, is her sense of humour."
"This novel is like a prism that becomes something other as the light changes. It is a comedy, then fable, satire, then autobiography and, overall, uplifting fiction."

"Frame has fearlessly absorbed a European way of writing, from the slowness of pace combined with delicious detail, philosophical sidetracks and the psychological interior of the main character."

"After pseudo-blindness comes Harry's deafness, and Frame's philosophical intricacies on the presence, absence, truth and elusiveness of writing are a delight. Yet the novel is grounded in the intimate details of Menton. Each morning Harry reads a curiosity-driven list of things in Nice-Matin from deaths to births, from temperatures to television (he never watches it), to what is on the radio (he never listens) to foreign news and traffic accidents, from advertisements to the lost and found. Then he can start writing."

"The conclusion is daring, like a jazz riff on beginnings and endings. The author is thinking while she plays, and playing while she thinks."

"This is a novel layered with vulnerability, intelligence, pain, joy and finely judged humour. I loved it - there is much to offer those familiar with Frame's work and a perfect starting point for those yet to read one of our treasured writers."

Library Journal:

"A beautifully crafted artistic and philosophical creation that explores the nature of communication and exposes Frame’s love of language."

Metro Magazine (NZ):

"Delightful, funny and profound."

Bookiemonster (NZ):

"The writing is exactly what we expect from Frame—gorgeous, delirious and shining with delight."

Literary Minded (Australia):

"Janet Frame is one of my all-time favourite authors. Her writing is surprising, absurd, knowing, funny, sad, dark, moving, imaginative and honest. She was an incredibly hard-working writer, often having to work in uncomfortable or strange conditions (while overcoming much personal tragedy)."

"As soon as I began reading the novel, it was like sitting down very comfortably with an old friend; a very smart, witty, entertaining old friend."

"It’s different than many recent posthumous novels, too, as it was intended for publication after her death. It’s not one of those cases where the executor has failed to burn the manuscript, resulting in questions around literary ethics. This book is, instead, quite perfectly posthumous…"
ANZ LitLovers (Australia):

"Released posthumously in accordance with Frame’s instructions, In the Memorial Room is a wicked black comedy. Written in the 1970s, it was withheld from publication because it’s so obviously based on Frame’s own experience in Menton, France, as a recipient of the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship."

"It’s not hard to see how it would have ruffled feathers if it had been published 40 years ago."

"Frame, however, is too good an author to pen just an everyday satire.  It’s easy to poke fun at people who take themselves and their devotion to the object of their admiration too seriously.   But Frame also explores some serious undercurrents: what kind of identity does an author have when she is inhabiting her characters with intensity?  And what is lost by agreeable people when they adapt themselves too slavishly to the demands of others because they fear revealing their true selves?"

“A strange, resonant, Nabokov-ian novel about the plight of Harry Gill, a New Zealand writer on a six-month fellowship in France, struggling to write his first imaginative fiction. Works by Frame (1924-2004), the New Zealand novelist and autobiographer, continue to appear. Never published during her lifetime, this book is marvelous experimental fiction.”

"Frame’s sentences are marvels, winding like narrow alleys through hill towns: They open spectacular vistas. Brilliant."

Publishers Weekly (USA):

"In her signature eclectic style, Frame has crafted both a canny commentary on literary fame and hero worship and a heartfelt meditation on what it means to be a writer."

The Australian:

"In the Memorial Room is not just a brilliant novel but a considered and poignant posthumous literary act, a curtain call by one of the world’s greatest authors, New Zealander Janet Frame, who died in 2004."

 "It is mentioned in the preface that Frame did not want to offend anyone involved with the Mansfield Fellowship, or in Menton, but it's also probable that she enjoyed the idea of a posthumous conversation with the reader, about language, expression, "truth" and endings: retirement, personal or professional obliteration, and (always there behind it all) death. And here, too, lies Frame's sharp, knowing wit, her attention to the absurd, and also - as some may think of it - her darkness."

Booktopia, Australia:

"Well, who'd have thought! Forget the thin skinned sensitivity of the Janet Frame you associate with An Angel at My Table. This gem ... [In the Memorial Room] ... shows a very different and much lighter personality."

 "A deliciously mischievous piece of fun, this is sharp social satire, ruthless in its mockery of literary pretension."

Australian Book Review:

"In the Memorial Room is a welcome if belated discovery, a delightfully absurd and creepy exploration of a certain kind of writer's plight. Its satire on the literary industry is also chillingly contemporary. Go to any writer's festival and take a look at the people pontificating onstage. You will see a lot of Michael Watercresses: they belong to a tribe that goes forth and multiplies. But you will have to look very hard to find a single Harry Gill."

Sydney Morning Herald:

"mordant, malicious and often very funny"

"In the Memorial Room triumphs as a pungent analysis of the manufacture of fame, a satire of the discontented, a poignant account of the loneliness of every writer and of Harry Gill in particular."

 [The ending to the book is] "a brilliant cadenza".

Sunday Star-Times:

"witty, erudite and profound"

"It is a formidable work. It is also amusing and satirical, poetic and provocative - a real joy to read."

"among the most impressive of her already imposing oeuvre"

"it explores a range of ideas that were central to her life and work"

"an unparalleled exhibition of all her skills - comic, satirical, poetic and profound"

Otago Daily Times:

"downright hilarious"

"brilliant, but cutting"

"Frame is shrewd as ever in her observations"

"Her work is a joy to read"

"The late Janet Frame's works are rewarding to read because they work on so many levels. On the most ''basic'' one, she simply writes a great story. Delving deeper, there is much more.    

The layers of meaning and reference, autobiographical elements, vivid and poetic language, characterisation and satire in Frame's second posthumously published novel In the Memorial Room show again why she is one of New Zealand's literary greats."

Sydney Review of Books:

" ‘It amused me,’ Harry thinks, ‘to suppose what the last word would be.’ And this, in the end, is Frame’s last word – brilliant, original and wry – on fiction, the posthumous writer, and the whole business of being the dead horse in which a pseudo-literary culture cowers, to shelter from shocks."

 "In the Memorial Room is both literally and figuratively posthumous. It centres around  themes of creativity, being a writer, and a writer’s posthumous memorialisation."

"Tumbling across the page from this point in the novel is a hilarious, spiralling and brilliant interior monologue, a bizarre implosion jewelled with the stifling clichés that have caused Harry to deafen. Wild and mischievous, it is part Molly Bloom, part hat-salesman, part-psalm. From the novel’s quiet, observant narrative bursts forth a vibrant new language of the secret, shouting Harry, like the ‘mutinous lunacy’ he has observed earlier: a bright mosaic tessellated with all the smooth phrases he has endured."

Radio New Zealand (Nine to Noon):

'Genuinely laugh out loud funny.'

 'Such a treat - one that everyone just needs to run out and pick up straight away!'

 'It's absolutely fantastic. I can't begin to rave about it enough.'

 'There's so much in it, even though it's only a short novel.'

'Right at the end, she has taken an incredible risk ... the book ends, and she moves into almost what another reviewer has described as "beat poetry" ... it's brilliant, absolutely brilliant.'

Landfall Review Online:

"Frame knows how to hit the sweetest spot when it comes to wry and dry, observational humour. People are ridiculously silly and Frame not only knew that but she is the high priestess of the dark art of conveying it with words. And nowhere in her vast oeuvre is it more evident in her last novel, her final chuckle from the grave, In The Memorial Room."

"This is not a novel as has been suggested, about how miserable Frame found the Katherine Mansfield Residency, but rather one based on her years of observation; watching and understanding, and I suspect being hugely amused, by the social conventions and expectations of this kind of strangeness that is New Zealand Literature. How it can eat you alive, spit you out again or even attempt to replace you with a person who looks far more the part."

 "The cult of expectation is alive and well, as are the literary vultures who never read anything, but always mean to. And not only is the satire still relevant, but the writing hasn’t dated either, and that’s Frame’s true genius. In the Memorial Room could have been written yesterday, it’s just that fresh and relevant in the telling."


"a critique of, and commentary on, the sometimes pretentious literary community"

 "More than anything else, this book is about people and their interactions. The observations that Harry makes of the Watercress family are both enlightening and amusing. In the Memorial Room has wonderful character representations, and each character is artfully and cleverly created. Janet Frame really is a wonderful, astute, interesting writer."

New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)

"filled with terrifyingly beautiful reflections"
"The problem with literature, Harry concludes, is that this very nothingness — like the nothingness of the dead writer, Margaret Rose Hurndell, in whose honor his award has been given — is what critics and readers memorialize."
"This short, funny and often beautifully written novel — completed in the early 1970s but just now being published — provides an excellent occasion for remembering the weird wisdom and genuine talent of Janet Frame, who died in 2004 after a startlingly diverse life."


New book by Tusiata Avia

Exciting news! The Janet Frame Literary Trust's 2013 Poetry Award recipient Tusiata Avia has launched a new book. Powerful work as ever:

"Fale Aitu | Spirit House is a dreamworld that not only portrays strong and assured voices, but also explores the whispers of quieter ghosts. With Tusiata Avia’s brilliant language, this dreamworld becomes a landscape that is both quietly eerie and beautiful." We <3 Books, (Booksellers NZ)

"Tusiata Avia is an essential voice in New Zealand and Pasifika literature. In her fearless new collection, she weaves together the voices of the living and dead, the past and the present in poems that are confessional and confrontational, gentle and funny. Speaking from Samoa, Christchurch, Gaza and New York, she combines stories from myth and the everyday, never shying away from pain or wonder."
Booknotes Unbound (NZ Book Council)

From ironic to uncritical: the evolution of a CK Stead blurb

 A recent edition. The selectively quoted Janet Frame statement, without its qualifier, now reads as apparently uncritical:
"A masterpiece" JANET FRAME
Harvill Panther

The  original blurb here reads:
"A masterpiece of creative writing."
Janet Frame New Zealand Listener
(It can just be made out on the bottom right of the above cover, and
was, to anyone not tone deaf, a pointed jibe.)
It's widely believed that Janet Frame was unconcerned with the vicious fictional portrait of her that CK Stead constructed in his novel All Visitors Ashore (1984) as revenge for what he perceived to be Frame's earlier unflattering fictional treatment of him as a balding mediocre poet in her short story 'The Triumph of Poetry' (1963).  Frame consistently denied that her fictional portrait had been intended to portray Stead. She even named the person who had inspired her story - another academic known to her.

This online review of All Visitors Ashore repeats the assumption that: "Frame had no complaints about the delayed retaliation."

 Stead himself has also insisted that Janet Frame "wouldn't have cared", when he has been called out on his various misrepresentations of her (NZ Listener 14 August 2010).

And yet, when Frame was asked her opinion of All Visitors Ashore her public response was to call it "a masterpiece of creative writing." (New Zealand Listener). Frame took the high moral ground, and she meant what she said: it was fiction, and it was a piece of work, a clever one.

How thick are those who can't see the sly barb in that? And why are they even involved in literary fiction if they have so poor a recognition of irony?

Frame said plenty about Stead's revenge novel to her inner circle. But she didn't "go public"; she didn't like falling out with friends and she had a genuine fondness for Karl who (as he says of her too) could be "delightful company". She admired him and I know she would be disappointed if she had known how toxic he would become towards her and her estate after her death. Or perhaps she knew that would happen; she had a pretty good understanding of the darkness in the human heart, which is why she could tolerate ambiguity and complexity in her friendships.

As far as I know Janet never fell out with anyone she had been close to. That wasn't her way. She was the adult in the room in almost every case. She knew how to forgive and let live. I only knew her to intensely dislike one person - the loathesome parasite Patrick Evans - and to my knowledge she never even met Evans. She certainly never had any kind of relationship with Evans, so her rejection of him wasn't a falling out. He just didn't rate.

Privately, Frame could discern what was fiction and what wasn't. She was amused by All Visitors Ashore and she did think it was well done although the cold fury behind it was not lost on her. When you are a writer, Janet often said, everything that happens to you is "grist to the mill". For her, that apparently made even such deeply personal betrayals more bearable.

There was one thing Janet was especially intrigued by. In one passage the Karl Stead-inspired character is having lustful thoughts about the Janet Frame-inspired character. Janet Frame's response to this was (and I heard her say this several times in conversation):

"I had no idea Karl was thinking about sleeping with me! I was so sexually naïve at the time!"

Since first publication Stead's own narrative around his novel has changed. Most recently he seems to believe that the character that is a lampoon of Frame is actually a biographical portrait of her. I suppose that is why he has had to take the "creative writing" bit out of the Janet Frame quote that he uses for a blurb. As Stead becomes even more curmudgeonly, he wants people to believe that his derogatory portrait is not entirely 'creative' but is also credibly 'realistic'.