Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fake Janet Frame "quote" promotes bogus "Janet Frame"

The play Gifted by Patrick Evans is being promoted by a fake Janet Frame 'quote' on the Christchurch Arts Festival website (screen shot above).

There is also a short video on the website in which Patrick Evans claims that now that Janet Frame and Frank Sargeson are dead, nobody can know what passed between them. He claims that what he has written is "plausible". This is a lie. There are many known facts that Evans has changed. Sargeson and Frame both wrote autobiographies and both are the subject of biographies, and there are many accounts of this time written by others in their circle that establish the basic historical facts.

Please note that in the video, Evans refers to the male author as "Sargeson" and the female author as "Janet". A classic sexist double standard.

I wrote to the Christchurch Festival and the Fortune Theatre Company that is touring the play, to complain about the misleading advertising by false representation, but have received no reply. I did hear from a reporter however, and here is the news report:


This news report omits to mention that the play is being promoted by the use of a bogus Janet Frame "quote", that most of the historical facts have been changed, and that the feud between its author Patrick Evans and Janet Frame had been going on since the 1970s.

But at least the public for the first time have been told that this "tribute" is controversial. So they can make up their own minds without being deceived. This is the first time that my point of view about GIFTED has ever been permitted a hearing in the media.

In order to spread his fantasy about Frame, Patrick Evans has had to change the truth about Frame, because the truth of Frame does not bear up his theoretical agenda. First of all, the novel Gifted says Janet turned up out of nowhere.
Janet Frame did not turn up unannounced. Frank Sargeson had heard of her and went looking for her and invited her to work at his place during the week, because she was living in a house with small children.
Then the novel says Frank does not know that Janet had been in a mental hospital. The Evans ‘Janet’ has lied about her history and hides it. This is not true. Frank knew all and Janet never hid anything like that. It’s very demeaning to suggest she was dishonest or even ashamed of her psychiatric history. What a way to treat the writer who is known for her honesty, and who did everything she could to let the public know of institutional abuses towards people with mental illness, to try to feed the audience this dishonest portrait of her !
The novel suggests Frame has only one good friend and maliciously suggests that her distant family do not understand her at all. She had close supportive friends and family. In fact Frame never stayed all week at Frank's hut; she worked and slept at the Takapuna hut during the week and stayed each weekend with her sister (my mother) in nearby Northcote. And she paid full board and lodging for the time she rented Frank’s hut.
The novel says Frame has never published before, or at least Frank hadn’t heard of it. But she was very well known in literary circles: already regarded as extremely promising before she even met Frank. She had won the top fiction prize for her collection of stories published several years earlier. Frank was admiring and probably already envious, and he wanted a piece of it. He sought her out. She had been publishing more work in the Listener and Landfall after The Lagoon won the prize for best work of fiction in 1952; by the time she had met Frank in 1955 she had performed her work on public radio, written some masterpieces, established other relationships in the literary and arts world,  and her career was well underway. But Evans just loves the myth that her career all started for her with St Frank. Frame was also highly educated and exceptionally well read. She was not an untutored primitive who came from nowhere and had a mad ‘gift’. Patrick Evans has peddled this demeaning viewpoint since the early 70s and Janet Frame is known to have despised him for it.
I don’t even want to talk about the scene where the Karl Stead-composite character cooks the sausages and indulges in the kind of sleazy sexual innuendo that Evans revels in, where it is suggested Janet will do better if she’s slipped one of those ‘sausages’. It’s apparently an insult to all red-blooded men that a woman might want to lead an independent and self-directed life and not subjugate herself sexually to a man. Slip her a sausage and make sure she knows her place. And make sure you mock her and suggest she’s unlovable anyway. Cringe making.
Also, another scene will be one of the most degrading for Janet, where Evans has ‘Janet’ recoiling from the human reality of Harry. This is probably the greatest injustice Evans does the real Frame. Frame knew and loved Harry and got on well with him. And before she came to Auckland, she had worked for a decent stretch as a nurse aid in a rest home. It is very unfair to suggest that she would not be compassionate and not keep a level head when faced with human frailty! This scene, critical for Evans’s arid and demeaning theory of Frame as alienated from real life and human compassion, is just abusive to the memory of a fine, good woman, and no doubt his dramatisation will play this scene for a laugh as well, rebranding the long-standing myth of an odd and reclusive anti-social Frame who has some freakish talent she can’t even control.
What a disservice this does to the highly educated, well-read, industrious and disciplined and ambitious author that Frame was.
As for the chocolates in the hedge, and the bizarre suggestion Frame would bother with a beauty salon when she deliberately flouted fashion conventions by not wearing bras and girdles, well, Evans betrays a misogyny there that many of his fellow Frame scholars have accused him of over the years.
Also, Evans ‘borrows’ a significant later relationship Frame had with her therapist Prof Robert Cawley of the Maudsley in London, and attributes their profound relationship to Janet and Frank.  To pump Frank Sargeson up in this way does a disservice to him too, to his real generosity and his tender over-anxious relationship with Frame. As Frame herself said, Frank Sargeson accepted her as a writer, and she was grateful for that, but it wasn’t until she left New Zealand that she felt accepted as a person as well as an artist.

1 comment:

BRENTON said...

I am saddened to read about this situation. Janet Frame deserves better!