Thursday, April 17, 2014

Janet Frame event for London Festival

Saturday May 31st 10am - 11am
King's College London

With Margaret Drabble, Kerry Fox, Stephanie Johnson  

Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts

Janet Frame was one of New Zealand’s most respected writers, admired around the world for her startlingly original insights into the human condition. Her insistence on living anonymously, combined with the powerful authenticity of her fiction led to biographical speculations that Frame consistently denounced.

In order to tell her side of the story, she published to much acclaim a three volume autobiography: it became a bestseller in New Zealand and cemented a strong readership internationally. Jane Campion’s film adaptation starring Kerry Fox paralleled this success by winning awards and attracting strong audiences. What followed for Frame was international recognition far beyond the literary world, and double the number of language translations.

But what were the myths, and how did they compare to the realities of Janet Frame’s life, and the work she produced? Our distinguished panel, all affected deeply by Frame’s work, will discuss Frame’s influence on them and her legacy today.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Great Kiwi Classic - new edition

"The best book ever written by a New Zealander" ~ Jane Campion
Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
Introduced by Margaret Drabble
May 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

An emphasis on highbrow literature

The Janet Frame Estate's magnificent literary agent Andrew Wylie was interviewed last year for New Republic (7 October 2013). They called him "the reigning king of the backlist" and note that "his distaste for commercial fiction" is "legendary".

"It might seem that Wylie’s single-minded emphasis on highbrow literature would have made him an early casualty of the turmoil in book publishing. Instead, he has thrived—throughout the rise of the mega-bookstores, the emergence of Amazon, and the e-book turf war over digital rights and royalties."

The Wylie Agency's client list is staggering: as you start at the beginning of the alphabet, you notice the procession of great and good names, alive and dead. The estates! For instance, the Diane Arbus Estate, J.G. Ballard Estate, Jorge Luis Borges Estate,  Saul Bellow Estate, Roberto Bolaño Estate, Joseph Brodsky Estate, William Burroughs Estate, Italo Calvino Estate, Raymond Carver Estate... And the sparks fly impressively, right until the end of the list.

Some quotable quotes from the man himself:

"Unless you’re a terribly bad writer, you are never going to have too many readers."

"The Frankfurt Book Fair is my idea of heaven."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Charles and Janet at DWRF 2014

Dear Charles, Dear Janet

Graphic: Otago Daily Times
Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival 2014
A portrait of the growth of the friendship between legendary Dunedinites Janet Frame and Charles Brasch using their own words written to and about each other: correspondence, poems, diary and memoir. This scripted reading premiered as ‘Can You Hear Me, Whangaparaoa?’  in front of a full house at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in 2009 and is presented in Dunedin for the first time courtesy of the Janet Frame Literary Trust.

 “This was such a clever idea - a programme of readings from unpublished correspondence between two towering NZ literary figures, Janet Frame and Charles Brasch… Well done whomever it was that came up with this idea.” (Graham Beattie)

 “This was a fabulous glimpse into the lives of Janet Frame and Charles Brasch, and certainly highlighted the mischievous sense of humour of Janet! I felt I came away with a real taste of the characters of these remarkable individuals.” (Vanda Symon) 

“It was an original and moving tribute, attended by a big crowd. Brasch’s and Frame’s voices came strongly down the years; some things have changed, some are the same. Brasch writing to Frame that “bulldozers on Waiheke sounds like sacrilege” is all too familiar, but Frame’s description of Brasch as having “discipline instead of marrow in his bones” could not be applied to too many people now.”  (Christchurch City Libraries Blog)
FREE Door entry  |  Saturday 10 May  |  Dunningham Suite, Dunedin Public Library  |  1pm-1.45pm

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Beautiful additions to Frame's extraordinary oeuvre" ~ The Australian

Skeletons of the fabulous
Felicity Plunkett of The Australian newspaper has reviewed two new Janet Frame titles that were recently published in Australia: The Mijo Tree (Penguin 2013) and Between My Father and the King (Wilkins Farago 2013).
It's a superbly intelligent and perceptive review, well worth reading (the reviewer is herself a poet).
 "Like the mijo seed, Frame sought an exceptional creative life. She tore the dark fruit of her early days apart and found in them seed for work that continues to appear, blossoming in this, her posthumous phase."
"Many of Janet Frame's stories are boned with the skeleton of the fabulous. With their 'once upon a time', their anthropomorphism and their small, clear fairytale phrasing, only gradually do they reveal their powerful musculature and darker currents."
"These two works are beautiful additions to Frame's extraordinary oeuvre."

Janet Frame Memorial Lecture 2014

will be held on Monday the 10th of March 2014 at 6.15 pm
at the Adam Auditorium of the Wellington City Galley
Doors open at 5.45 pm
Admission is free
The Mouth of the Whale (The Power of Pictures)
by Gavin Bishop
In his lecture celebrated children's author and illustrator Gavin Bishop will focus on the role of illustration in literature.
The Janet Frame Memorial Lecture 2014 is sponsored by the New Zealand Society of Authors in association with the New Zealand Festival and the City Gallery Wellington.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Janet Frame stories in Slovenian


Vstopate v človeško srce

(You are now entering the human heart
and other stories)

Janet Frame

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Still winning prizes

Ten years after her death, Janet Frame's writing is still picking up awards. The radio drama adaptation of her 3-volume autobiography AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE (first broadcast on BBC4 last January) recently won the BBC Radio Drama Award for Best Series at the 2014 BBC Audio Drama Awards.

Lorraine Ashbourne (who plays Janet Frame), Philip Glenister (who presented the award), Anita Sullivan and Karen Rose
(BBC Media Centre).
Congratulations to Sweet Talk, to Anita Sullivan and Karen Rose, and to all the actors!

Of course for such a win to take place there are also a host of other people that have contributed to the success of the final production in our own various ways, and I'm sure we are all feeling pleased and satisfied that the excellence of this adaptation has been acknowledged.

See more about the adaptation on Anita Sullivan's web page.

For more context see my earlier posts:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

NZ Herald Greatest New Zealanders

As part of their 150th Anniversary celebrations late last year the New Zealand Herald ran a 'New Zealander of the Year' series in which they retrospectively named our 'Greatest New Zealanders'.

Janet Frame was accorded this honour twice: New Zealander of the Year 1957 ('Literary Spellbinder') when her first novel Owls Do Cry was published, and New Zealander of the Year 1983 ('A Writer's Story') when she published To the Is-Land, the first volume of her bestselling autobiography.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Janet Frame's last words

Cartoon © Tom Scott
First published in the Dominion Post 30 January 2004
(reproduced by kind permission)
This week marks the 10th anniversary of Janet Frame's death from leukemia on the 29th of January 2004 at Dunedin Hospital where she had been admitted only a little over 48 hours beforehand.
Until then, for the several months after she had been diagnosed with the terminal illness, my aunt had managed to stay at her own home with my help as companion and caregiver. We had the support of the Otago Hospice, of the district nurses and home help staff provided by the local health board, and the Meals on Wheels service, and also from the wonderful volunteers of the Cancer Society.
Close friends and family also rallied around. Janet was able to bid farewell to a host of her friends and family and colleagues over that time, and as she had lived her life, she approached her end with courage, wisdom, wit, good humour and a sense of adventure. She was strong and lucid and conscious to her very last breath. Only in those last two days when she was admitted to hospital did talking became too difficult for her, but even then she was still able to communicate by mouthing simple but heartfelt expressions such as "thank you".
Her last actual words were spoken early on the 27th January not long after she reached the emergency room at the hospital. The medical staff had indicated that she was approaching the end and that they would admit her to the oncology ward to try to make her as comfortable as possible. She said:
"So this is it, then."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The hunt for the Great Kiwi Classic

A Great Kiwi Classic: Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame. 
The New Zealand Book Council has launched a "hunt for the Great Kiwi Classic":  they are asking the book lovers of New Zealand to "help us choose the most loved Kiwi read".
They have asked readers to make their nominations on a special Facebook page:
or to email the Book Council at
The selected classic New Zealand book(s) will be the focus of a session at this year's Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.
Titles by Janet Frame are in the lead
Counting the nominations on the Facebook page so far, titles by Janet Frame outnumber those of any other author. Novelist Maurice Gee comes in a close second, also with a variety of titles selected. Janet Frame's novel Owls Do Cry has more votes than any other nominated title (although as you'd expect her 3 volume autobiography collected under the title An Angel at My Table also has a strong representation). Coming a close second is the Edmonds Cook Book and the novel Coal Flat by Bill Pearson currently appears to be running at third.
Other strong contenders are of course The Bone People by Keri Hulme, and Witi Ihimaera and Patricia Grace have several greatly loved titles nominated.
The humorous publications by Barry Crump and the Footrot Flats cartoon series also make an appearance.
Poetry lovers have also made an appearance (Janet Frame's The Goose Bath has been mentioned). The Kiwi love for our poets seems to me to be one of our best kept secrets. The best loved popular poets such as Janet Frame, Hone Tuwhare, Brian Turner and Sam Hunt have all produced long lasting bestsellers that have moved outside the influence of the literary elitists and the ivory tower.
It seems a bit silly to me to have a recipe book jostling for attention with classic New Zealand fiction, so I do hope that the convenors of this exercise relax their criteria a little and allow 'winners' in several categories - fiction, non-fiction, lifestyle, contemporary and historical, as well as poetry.
But of course no matter what the organisers choose and however they manage their decisions, their main goal must be to spark discussion and generate interest in the reading riches that New Zealand has provided - which is a good thing!
And whether or not Owls Do Cry or An Angel at My Table (or any other of Frame's greatly loved and best-selling masterpieces) are recognised as THE Great Kiwi Classic, nothing can take away from the fact that they are great Kiwi classics!
Owls Do Cry was first published in 1957 to instant awe and acclaim - it had rapid sales and a quick reprint. And it has never been out of print in well over 50 years! (What other NZ classic can make such a claim? Probably only the Edmonds Cook Book!!)
Since 1957 Owls Do Cry has had dozens of different editions and hundreds of reprints all around the world. Its first foreign translation was in 1961 and it continues to have repeat foreign editions published (new editions in German and Italian most recently) and to be translated into new languages (the most recent new translations have been into Swedish and Turkish).
In 2007 the Janet Frame Literary Trust released a 50th anniversary edition through Random House NZ.
In 2014 it is time to refresh the publication cycle of this great New Zealand classic once again, and we have an exciting new paperback edition coming up for release before the middle of the year - a Text Classic Edition of Owls Do Cry. (More details soon!)
We have also recently negotiated a renewal of our agreement with Bolinda Publishing to distribute their very successful audio book of Owls Do Cry internationally.
And finally - I hope to have good news very soon about a new UK edition of Owls Do Cry.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Janet Frame serial shortlisted for BBC Audio Drama Award

The finalists for the BBC Audio Drama Awards 2014 were announced earlier this month.

One of the finalists is the excellent adaptation by Anita Sullivan of Janet Frame's autobiography that was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last January.

Best Audio Drama (Series or Serial)

(Judges: Fergal Keane, Jane Thynne and Daniel Evans)

  • An Angel at My Table Written by Janet Frame, adapted by Anita Sullivan, produced by Karen Rose, Sweet Talk for Radio 4
  • The Pursuits of Darleen Fyles by Esther Wilson, produced by Pauline Harris, BBC Radio Drama Salford for Radio 4
  • Takes Two to Tandem by Lavinia Murray, produced by Sharon Sephton, BBC Radio Drama Salford for Radio 4
For more information about the awards, see the BBC press release.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held on Sunday 26 January 2014 in the Radio Theatre at BBC Broadcasting House in central London, hosted by Lenny Henry and Tony Hall, BBC Director-General.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

You are now entering 2014

Happy New Year! 2014 is a year of some Frame milestones. On August the 28th of this year, it will be 90 years since Janet Frame was born in Dunedin in 1924.

And in just over a week from now, it will be the tenth anniversary of Janet Frame's death at Dunedin on January the 29th 2004 at the age of 79.

And here (photo, above) is something to celebrate: a draft of the beautiful cover art for the first new Janet Frame edition of this year, a Slovenian translation of a selection of Janet Frame's short stories to be given the title 'You are now entering the human heart and other stories'. Proposed publication date February 2014.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Gone camping

Janet Frame (front centre)
on a camping holiday with her family,
on the banks of the Rakaia River
where her father enjoyed the salmon fishing.
Summer 1936-37
Wishing all the readers of this blog a very happy and refreshing holiday season.
[Left to right: Geordie, June, Janet, Marguerite (a family friend), Isabel and Lottie (Mrs Frame), with Myrtle at the back]


Monday, December 23, 2013

The first translation of the last novel

I'm delighted to announce that Janet Frame's 13th novel In the Memorial Room and the collection of new stories Between My Father and the King (aka Gorse is Not People) are to be published in Italian translation.

That's the first translation deal for both these brand new posthumous titles.

Another recent agreement I'm thrilled about is with Turkish publisher Yapi Kredi. Janet Frame's novel Faces in the Water and her autobiographical trilogy An Angel at My Table will follow the already published novels Owls Do Cry and Towards Another Summer into Turkish translation.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"so human and marvellous as a person"

The real Frank on the real Janet

‘I love it [The Adaptable Man] , the power of her mind, its range, and the way she creates — a connection with the world one daily experiences of just exactly the right tenuousness. A brilliant girl, and so human and marvellous as a person.'

 Frank Sargeson wrote this to EP (Peter) Dawson on the 22nd of December 1965. The letter is quoted in Michael King's biography of Frame but was not chosen by Waikato academic Sarah Shieff for her careful selection of Sargeson's letters that, although she gave it the title Letters of Frank Sargeson (Random House 2012), was not by any means a complete letters. Nor, unfortunately, was it the comprehensive and revisionist project that would have blasted some myths and stereotypes that have accrued around Sargeson and his relationship with Frame. (Sargeson was briefly Frame's 'mentor' but the tables swiftly turned, as the unexpurgated correspondence between them makes quite clear. And yet one still hears Sargeson referred to as Frame's 'mentor': she is rarely even permitted the status of  equal 'friendship' with him. In fact lately there seems to be a ridiculous trend towards calling Frame Sargeson's protégée.) I see the Shieff Letters as having delivered a politely curated hagiographical view of Sargeson, designed not to upset any applecarts in the conservative and hidebound NZ literary academic community.

One example of what in my opinion was an editing bias in the Shieff Letters is the glossing over of the issue of Sargeson having stolen or copied some of Frame's manuscripts while she was boarding in his backyard hut.

Shieff allowed through into her version of the letters, plenty of demeaning and derogatory commentary by Frank (and others) about Janet, especially from the early years when the "mid century misogynists'" apparently genuinely believed Frame to be hopelessly psychotic.

Clearly it will take more than a generation before the fiercely possessive 'Sargeson Mafia' can let their St Frank down off his pedestal and let him too, be "so human and marvellous as a person".

The Shieff Letters certainly do not conceal the fact that Frank could be, as independent scholar Nicholas Reid notes in his excellent review of Shieff's volume, "a real arsehole".

But despite his own personal awareness of Sargeson's at time Machiavellian influence, even Reid appears to swallow whole the Authorised Version of Janet Frame-as-demented-cotcase that Sargeson so seamlessly cemented into the collective consciousness of NZ Lit, largely by means of his "agonising letters from the middle 1950s about Janet Frame and the state of her mental health".

The reviewers all seem to know that Sargeson could be a nasty piece of work, but when it comes to his sly propaganda belittling Janet Frame and her work (over decades, as it turns out), all of a sudden their critical faculties appear suspended and Frank is treated as if he were the authority on her 'mental state'. His paranoia, his envy, his neuroticism, his tendency to exaggerate, to tease, to lie, none of these are taken into account regarding his astonishing pronouncements about Janet Frame.

No one is astonished. They already *know* all they need to know about poor Janet.

 No wonder she fled the country in fear of her life.

A milestone

The official Janet Frame Facebook page recently reached the 1000 'likes' milestone.

At the time I tried to get a screen shot of the '1000' likes exactly but just missed it:
The fans of the page seem to enjoy the regular updates of quotes, photos and news.