Dear Patricia Neville,
I see that you are to present this false proposition at an upcoming Janet Frame Colloquium in London:
“Frame’s work is overlooked in Britain.”
Back in August I wrote to you to protest several other similarly erroneous claims you made in the following passage you included in a book review:
“The main gripe, however, has to centre on the difficulty of getting hold of copies in the UK. This has also been a problem with some of Frame’s novels since at least the 1980s; a source of frustration to Frame’s admirers. Currently, Penguin NZ does not hold publishing rights for Frame’s work beyond New Zealand. These publishing arrangements help to deny Janet Frame an international readership, with the result that this fine writer, a major novelist, remains so little known outside her homeland.”
Here is a reminder of the TEN Frame TITLES currently in print in the UK, and I would appreciate if you devoted your five minutes to telling the gathering about these instead of misleading them by claiming that Frame's work is “hardly in print”.
Towards Another Summer (Virago)
Faces in the Water (Virago Modern Classic)
Living in the Maniototo (Virago Modern Classic)
THREE VOLUMES OF AUTOBIOGRAPHY
An Angel at My Table (Virago Modern Classic omnibus)
This omnibus includes the three 3 volumes in one:
To the Is-Land
An Angel at My Table
The Envoy from Mirror City
TWO VOLUMES OF SHORT STORIES:
The Lagoon and Other Stories (Bloomsbury Books)
(available in two editions: a hardback classic and a paperback)
The Daylight and the Dust: Selected Stories (Virago Modern Classic)
This is a selection of the best stories from the four volumes of stories Frame published in her lifetime:
YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE HUMAN HEART
YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE HUMAN HEART
TWO POETRY TITLES:
Storms Will Tell: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books)
Contains the entire text of The Goose Bath and most of the poems from The Pocket Mirror (2 volumes in one)
These ten titles represent over half of Frame’s entire oeuvre. This is a fine achievement in the current financial environment and reflects the continuing acclaim for Janet Frame. What a shame you choose rather to belittle Frame’s reception and misrepresent her status as a well-regarded literary author whose works are always reviewed appreciatively in the major papers and journals. The Bloomsbury and Virago editions are being continually reprinted, some of the titles being reprinted twice last year and already twice this year.
I also made it clear to you that it was only in about 2005 that the wide range of Frame titles published by Women’s Press in the UK were taken off the market. They had been in print since the early 1980s – for over twenty years, regularly reprinted and there were also sublicensed mass market paperback editions in other editions such as Flamingo.
Misrepresenting Frame’s admirable career in the UK is hardly going to encourage publishers! I do wish you would not undervalue the number of works that are currently in print.
Apart from this wide range from all the genres Frame excelled in, all of her work is in print in the English language somewhere in the world, and is available in a new or used copy, for purchase from selected internet booksellers.
I wrote to you in August with the evidence that you had made several incorrect statements concerning Frame's publishing in the UK and around the world. That you appear to want to repeat these falsehoods despite the evidence provided, is very disappointing. In the past two years alone I have authorised the publication of roughly three dozen new Frame editions internationally: including German, Turkish, Finnish, Italian, Mexican, Korean, Swedish, Dutch, Czech, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian translations. Also, in 2012-13, in English, there have been three new fiction titles published in New Zealand and Australia; two of these have already reached the USA. None of these have been published in the UK yet but these things take time. The posthumous story collection only appeared in NZ a little over 12 months ago! You seem to have so little understanding of international rights sales negotiations, or the current perilous state of publishers of literary fiction.
As for your claim that “Frame’s work is overlooked in Britain”, here are some facts disproving this error:
Britain was where Frame first made her international reputation. Her first novel OWLS DO CRY, to which you seem to give pre-eminence, was not her breakthrough work. That was FACES IN THE WATER which makes most reputable lists of the top 500 novels in world history. OWLS is by no means her most important work nor even does it rate internationally in the top three of her major novels. It is a fine work, of course, and sold extremely well in the UK in the half dozen or so editions that have been sold there over the decades. In New Zealand OWLS DO CRY is of course a cultural icon, and is of great interest as Frame's first novel. It is currently in print in translation in several languages, including German, Swedish, and Turkish, and Text Publishing of Melbourne are bringing out a Classic edition next year in Australasia, so it is by no means neglected. There is also a fine Bolinda audio book and MP3 of this title available internationally. It was last in print in the UK less than ten years ago. One has to be realistic about publishing cycles. This fact is not unique to Frame.
Also, I sent you a link to some quite full information about Frame’s poetry being included in 2012 on the UK poetry archive and about the BBC radio adaptation of her autobiography that was broadcast earlier this year in the UK to huge interest and acclaim.
And further, Janet Frame is taught in the schools and universities of the UK. Her work is included in official exam papers and her stories and poems are anthologised regularly. Claire Bazin recently published a UK edition of a text book dedicated to Janet Frame. 1000 copies of Towards Another Summer were sold recently in the UK in one transaction to an educational district.
This is surely not what you call being “overlooked”. You have your head in the sand, I am afraid. There is a long-disseminated myth that “Frame’s work is little read and scarcely available”, that you seem to have swallowed whole. This was never true, as a moment’s thought and a look at the evidence would reveal. It is a misconception.
Again I would ask you, what other New Zealand author has a better representation in terms of range and longevity and library representation in the UK, and a few bestsellers and an extremely "long tail" too as with all the great authors? Have a look at Amazon.co.uk – there is a huge showing of Frame titles there.
I do thank you for your obviously sincere desire to see Frame appreciated and distributed and promoted more in the UK, but I suggest that this kind of growth will only take place by recognising and affirming the reputation and coverage that she has already achieved.