A brief cold snap has dissipated and heat wave conditions prevail over most of Aotearoa New Zealand. Christchurch has enjoyed a high of 32 degrees C with a light nor'wester today. It's very warm in Dunedin too. The school holidays roll onwards and much of the country is still at the beach or at the lake.
Perfect timing for the NZ Listener's "Feast of Fiction" - the summer reading issue packed with some extremely appetising-looking fiction and poetry.
The Listener has changed its political spots dramatically, in recent years, and it has adopted a blatantly right wing bias in its opinion pages. I know that this partisanship has put many readers off (myself included). But there is one aspect of the Listener that in my opinion still makes it indispensable in NZ cultural life: the Arts & Books section.It's especially heartwarming to see the poetry in this summer reading issue. Congratulations to the Listener for actually listening to the protests of NZ readers and writers who were outraged by the suggestion that the new poetry feature might be axed from the pages of the venerable weekly magazine, as a cost-cutting measure.
Lively discussions took place! Probably the most influential forum was Graham Beattie's Bookman Blog. The decision was fortunately rescinded. Poetry again graces the pages of the Listener.
That's a relief, because many New Zealand authors had their first significant publication in the Listener (Janet Frame was one of them), and it is to be hoped that the Listener will continue to provide a forum for upcoming generations of Kiwi writers.
One of the short stories in the New Zealand Listener Arts & Books January 10-16 2009 Vol 217 No 3583, is by Janet Frame.
"A Boy's Will" was first published in Landfall in 1966 but Janet never included it in any of her story collections, so it's not well known. It's one of several 'uncollected' stories that the estate has included in the upcoming volume PRIZES: SELECTED SHORT STORIES, to be published by VINTAGE NZ February 2009.
This comprehensive new selection of Janet Frame's published stories has also been sold to Random House Australia, Virago for the UK and Canada, and Counterpoint in the USA. It will appear in those countries at a later date.
More on PRIZES as the time comes! Meanwhile I'm looking forward to reading all the other Listener stories and poems. The "Feast of Fiction" would be great for beach reading, but also to take along if travelling, which is convenient for me as I can take the Listener issue with me tomorrow as I embark on a long bus and train journey.
I'm off to attend a family funeral. One of Janet Frame's favourite cousins has died as the result of a motorbike accident, and his passing has sadly added to the distressing holiday road toll that New Zealand has suffered this year.
There aren't many of that generation left in our extended family. My second cousin would have been 90 this year and as you'd expect from the information that he was still out riding on his motorbike at that age, he was full of vitality to the end.
I could never believe he was as old as he said he was. He was from the Godfrey side of the family, a branch of the extended family that seem to have been able to preserve their youthful freshness and optimism even into old age. I never met a jaded Godfrey. They all seemed to be alive and awake and interested in the world in every minute detail, full of curiosity about everything, and with a mixture of bemused innocence and sage-like wisdom. Of course these are qualities that Janet Frame had in abundance too and that are so characteristic of her writings.
Here's a brief passage from "A Boy's Will", which is a story full of weather, as it is about a budding meteorologist :
Auckland this summer was a factory of storms.
Lightning, thunder, rain swept from West to East, Tasman to Pacific, rolling big smoke-white clouds like a bushfire in the sky with tongues of lightning darting and stabbing and the thunder exploding and more rain like sheets of aluminium falling. Peter dealt with each storm by recording it, calculating, experimenting. He collected and measured the rain in his rain-gauge, he read his barometer, his maximum and minimum thermometer, and then after such close disciplined reading he spent hours reading the sky, in agreeable free translation.