Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Summer holiday picnic at the beach.
From left: June & Wilson Gordon, Pamela Gordon, Janet Frame.
Photograph by Ian Gordon. 
Wishing all the readers of this blog a Happy New Year 2015.
PS: This photo very likely dates to early 1964, not long after Janet Frame returned from her years of living in Europe. She was 39 years old at the time. Coincidentally Frame's autobiographical trilogy AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE (written in the early 1980s) ceases at the exact time captured in the image - shortly after she returned to New Zealand and was staying with her sister's family in Northcote. But Frame went on to live for another action-filled 40 years!

The 'mother' of New Zealand fiction?

In the Memorial Room was reviewed insightfully for the blog NZ LIT 101: Reviews of New Zealand Books:

"The book is funny, not in a snorting laughter way, but it is a satire with an edge of irony.  If Katherine Mansfield, which of course the Menton Fellowship in Frame’s book refers to, is the Grandmother of New Zealand fiction, Janet is potentially the mother.  Perhaps releasing the book after her death means that Frame can poke fun at the way writers are remembered, how they are memorialised, and how as readers and literary groupies we try and house writers in our collective imaginations."

The reviewer notes that Harry "feels like the memorial room is a grave that keeps Hurndell’s death alive rather than her work."

Nicely said!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A death in the family

Janet Frame's beloved nephew Ian Gordon died suddenly in August this year at the age of 64. Ian was the "nephew sleeping in a basement room" of her famous poem 'Rain on the Roof' (see poster below), written when Ian was a teenager and Janet Frame was staying in a caravan in the back yard of the Gordon family home in Northcote.

Ian was a veteran Radio New Zealand engineer and technical producer of radio drama, having started working for the state broadcaster 47 years ago. More recently Ian had become an occasional comedic actor, featuring in short films and TV productions. He is dearly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.

 Tribute to Ian Gordon in Phantom Billstickers Café Reader #4
In his memory Radio New Zealand has instituted the Ian Gordon Memorial Award for excellence in Technology. The first award was presented recently in Wellington by Ian's brother Dr Neil Gordon (with Ian's daughter Aimee Tolhopf present from Auckland by video link). The winners were Shannon McKenna and Matt Thomson.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Janet Frame poems in Italian

The 31st October 2014 issue of the Italian online journal ATELIER features three poems by Janet Frame.

'The Happy Prince', 'The Icicles' and 'A Journey' - all from The Goose Bath (2006) appear in the original English and in Italian translation.

The poems were translated into Italian by Eleonora Bello and Francesca Benocci.


Spanish translator wins prize for volume of NZ stories


 A volume of 20 New Zealand short stories translated into Spanish by Paloma Fresno Calleja, published by the University of Zaragoza Press (Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza 2014) has won a prize for its translator. For more, read co-editor Janet Wilson's blog post here.

The selection of 20 short stories includes Janet Frame's story 'The Lagoon'.

"not just a brilliant novel" (Angela Meyer in 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."

Angela Meyer, 'Writer's Cell Block', a review of In the Memorial Room by Janet Frame, The Australian 4 May 2013

Australian author, critic and book blogger Angela Meyer (of Literary Minded fame) really gets Janet Frame. It's a delight to reread her insights about Memorial - I blogged this review at the time, but have just come across it again while looking for something else, and had to marvel yet again at how perceptive it is.

"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."

A Mijo Tree for Christmas

The Mijo Tree by Janet Frame
Illustrated by Deidre Copeland
Published by Penguin New Zealand (2014)
Reprinted 2015
Hardback 101 pages
Available: Australia/New Zealand

This unique little treasure of a book was published for the first time just over a year ago - it sold out almost immediately and wasn't reprinted until this year - so there are probably some left if anyone missed out on the Christmas rush last year.

There is a new review of The Mijo Tree in the latest Landfall magazine. It's a print edition so the contents are not online, so I'll pick out an observation or two made by the reviewer James Norcliffe.

Landfall 228 (Spring 2014)
University of Otago Press

The review is entitled 'Strange and Powerful Music' which could refer to a lot of Janet Frame's writings, especially when she resorts to her fable style as here.

Norcliffe notes that the book has been "beautifully packaged" and thinks that the 'retro' design with its monochrome illustrated frame and the occasional full-page illustrations are "somewhat reminiscent of Arthur Rackham" and that these "complement the bleak message".
The Mijo Tree is indeed a dark story, and Frame had learnt by the time she wrote this piece that the squeamish gate keepers of her acquaintance at that time would likely be repelled by it. So she preserved it for posterity - she knew posterity to be strangely enthusiastic for long lost manuscripts - and here we are, lucky posterity, able to read it at last. There are two surviving copies, both lodged at the Hocken Library in Dunedin - one amongst her own literary papers and one donated by her friend John Money, to whom Janet posted a copy of the manuscript in 1957.
Norcliffe kindly refers to my " very useful afterword on the origin and subsequent history of the manuscript", and he goes on to give a thorough and appreciative reading of the fable as "more Aeschylus than Aesop" with no "happy-ever-afters or comforting bromides here, nor finger-wagging moralising."
The review concludes with the observation that while biographical speculation "adds a frisson to the reading, The Mijo Tree exists quite independently of this as a dark, bleak little tale and a most worthwhile addition to the Janet Frame canon."
Here is a link to an earlier blog post with reviews, news features, a radio interview and the launch speech by Vanda Symon: The Mijo Tree takes root


'Dear Charles, Dear Janet' at the DWRF (on youtube)

Here is a video recording of a public reading from Dear Charles, Dear Janet that was performed to a full house earlier this year at the Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival.

Readers were (from left):
Pamela Gordon (literary executor for Janet Frame)
Alan Roddick (literary executor for Charles Brasch)
Georgina O'Reilly (English Lit student, University of Otago)
David Eggleton (current editor of Landfall)

Dear Charles Dear Janet consists of a series of excerpts from the correspondence and other writings of Janet Frame and Charles Brasch - shaped into a conversation between the two - that also serves as an enlightening portrait of both writers. It was selected and edited by Frame trustees Pamela Gordon and Denis Harold in 2009 with the intention of drawing out the development of the long relationship between Frame & Brasch that began with her tentative approach to him as august editor of the literary magazine Landfall and ended with the tender mutual affection and respect of their last letters. The conversation is fascinating, at times very moving and at times humorous.

Dear Charles, Dear  Janet was first performed as Can You Hear Me, Whangaparaoa? at Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in 2009 to a large and appreciative audience. The text was enlarged and subsequently published in a hand-printed fine edition by Holloway Press at Auckland University.

The Dunedin readings were slightly abridged to fit a shorter timeslot (from 60 to 45 minutes).

 “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)

 Graphic: Otago Daily Times

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A post from Andorra

When your friends and family travel these days it's usually not a 'postcard' they send to let you know the latest place they have been and what they have seen - it's a 'post' on Facebook. My brother Neil Gordon travelled to Spain recently and posted some marvellous pictures from an excursion he made to Andorra along with a fascinating report of his day, which he has kindly agreed to share with the readers of this blog:

 8 December 2014

I went on something of a pilgrimage to Andorra today. My aunt Janet Frame lived there for about six weeks in March/April 1957. I wanted to see the area where she lived, referred to as Les Escaldes in the chapter “Andorra” of her autobiography, from which I will use short quotes.

Looking down towards the main part of Andorra La Vella from the Escaldes-Engordany area. The other photos are from immediately below on the right hand side amongst those buildings.


I think I found the “ .. roaring mountain torrent that washed at the basement walls of the tenement buildings lining its banks.” The exact tenement building wasn’t locatable - I suspect it has long since been torn down and replaced by a swanky apartment building.

 Janet refers to her lodgings only having running cold water, as “ .. the town’s hot water, drawn from hot springs in the mountains, could be freely used at the basins and taps in the square”. I found one such public hot water source - the Font del Roc Del Metge which provides water which is 70C at source.

She also refers to her routine of “ .. each morning taking the tin bucket along the street, over the ancient stone bridge to the dairy for the day’s milk ..”. I think that particular bridge is the Pont d'Engordany, built in 1785. Incidentally, it seems that what used to be the separate village of Les Escaldes has been absorbed into Andorra La Vella and is referred to as Escaldes-Engordany.

Pont d'Engordany

It's been a long but very satisfying day. I left my Barcelona hotel at 7 am and got back at 11 pm. These were a few photos - I have many more to show family back in NZ.

Photographs (c) Neil Gordon, LPSNZ

Elizabeth Smither takes Janet Frame Award


Congratulations to author Elizabeth Smither, who has received the 2014 NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature.

Judges said Smither was an illustrious poet whose work "continues to go from strength to strength".
Elizabeth Smither is a poet, novelist and short story writer who has recently retired from her librarian role at Puke Ariki in New Plymouth. She said she was delighted with the win. Smither, who knew Janet Frame, having met up with her at the time when Frame lived in nearby Stratford, Taranaki, said "It's just lovely to have an award named after her." (Taranaki Daily News)

Smither intends to use the award, worth $3,000, to help her find the concentrated time needed to work on a new collection of poems.

The New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ Inc) judging panel said they were impressed by the calibre of the applicants for the award, with "many of New Zealand's more distinguished writers vying for this accolade".

Highly Commended were:

Laurence Fearnley
Siobhan Harvey
Cilla McQueen
Vivienne Plumb
Tina Shaw

The NZSA Janet Frame Award is given every two years and is funded by a gift of $15,000 given to NZSA/PEN by the Janet Frame Literary Trust in 2007.

Coincidentally as I write this (10 December 2014), today is the anniversary of the award of a literary prize to Janet Frame herself, for her first book, by PEN NZ - which was the precursor to the current New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ Inc).

 Janet Frame's P.E.N. Hubert Church Award was signed on the 10th of December 1952
For further information on that 'lifesaving literary prize' please see my blog post written on the 60th anniversary.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Arche Literatur Kalender 2015

For 2015 Janet Frame will again feature on the Arche Literary Cooking Calendar.
It's a winning idea: recipes, or at least descriptions of meals, are drawn from the author's writing and these are supplemented by a recipe and illustrations of the ingredients. Beautifully done.
(It's in German of course!)
Here was Janet Frame's page for the 2014 calendar:
She was joined by Philip Roth among many others.
Janet Frame's recipe for 2015 is Fisch unter der Haube, inspired by a passage from Living in the Maniototo (Auf dem Maniototo).
Some of the many other great authors included in the 2015 calendar include Thomas Mann and Alice Munro.

You can peruse a range of fascinating calendars (and order, if you wish) at this link: ARCHE

Some previews of the 2015 Arche Küchen Kalender 2015 can be found here.

Writing Short Stories: A Bloomsbury Companion

by Courttia Newland & Tania Hershman
Bloomsbury Academic (December 2014)
Hot off the press, a guide to writing short stories. Among the many approaches, Tania Hershman in one chapter makes a close reading of Janet Frame's exquisite story 'Between My Father and the King'.

Poems from around the world

Another English. Another anthology!
Poetry Foundation
Harriet Monroe Institute
Poets in the World Series
edited by Catherine Barnett & Tiphanie Yanique
Tupelo Press 2014

Acclaimed poets from around the world select poems from their country of origin.

"Using an artist’s rather than a scholar’s approach, these poems — chosen out of love and admiration by practicing poets — show the vitality of English deployed by revered and emerging poets."
Hinemoana Baker from Aotearoa/New Zealand joins her selections with those of fellow poets Les Murray from Australia, Todd Swift from Canada, Rustum Kozain from South Africa, Ishion Hutchinson from the Caribbean, Kwame Dawes from Ghana, Sudeep Sen from India.
The Aotearoa/NZ selection includes Tusiata Avia, Meg Campbell, David Eggleton, Bernadette Hall, Anne Kennedy, Robert Sullivan and Hone Tuwhare, among other well-known names. Janet Frame's poem is the powerful 'Yet Another Poem About a Dying Child' with these unforgettable lines in the last stanza:
He must sleep, rocking the web of pain
till the kind furred spider will come
with the night-lamp eyes and soft tread
to wrap him warm and carry him home
to a dark place, and eat him. 

Dealing with Rejection

"If you have received a rejection letter, it means you have something in common with many great writers like Janet Frame."

One book blogger responded to her reading of Janet Frame's posthumously published collection of stories by incorporating a review of the book with some hints for writers about how to deal with rejection. It's worth a read! (She doesn't include Janet Frame's strategy - write about the rejection in your autobiography and leave the rejected manuscripts for your literary estate to publish in the New Yorker! That'll show them!)


'Between My Father and the King' trailer (Australian edition)

The book trailer for the Australian version of Between My Father & the King, published by Wilkins Farago. Enjoy.


"Vibrant, insightful" - Australian Book Review

Between My Father and the King: New and Uncollected Stories
Wilkins Farago, Australia (paperback Dec 2013)
"There is more than enough here to demonstrate what made Frame such a vibrant, insightful, insistent, and distinctive writer."

I'm just catching up with this marvellous review of Between My Father & the King by Sophia Barnes in the Australian Book Review (June/July 2014 no. 362):

" Frame always dealt deftly with the darkest parts of human nature, in a way that is utterly unsensational and matter-of-fact – all the much more effective for that. The posthumously published ‘Dot’,  like the hitherto unpublished ‘Big Money’, is marked by a dénouement whose stomach-clenching shock derives as much from the subtlety with which it is handled as from its content. "

" ‘An Electric Blanket’, apparently disliked by Frame’s close friend and mentor Frank Sargeson and not published until now, is beautiful, strange, and moving – a telling slice of married life, unmarred by sentimentality. "

 " Gorse Is Not People’, famously denied publication on the basis of its bleak conclusion, is indeed heartbreaking – short, simple, and devastating. Its final publication in The New Yorker and now in this collection can only be celebrated. "

Janet Frame's posthumous collection of stories, is also available in American and New Zealand editions:

Gorse is Not People: New and Uncollected Stories Penguin New Zealand (jacketed hardback 2012)

Between My Father and the King: New and Uncollected Stories Counterpoint Press, USA, (hardback 2012, paperback 2013, ebook 2013)


An essential New Zealand poetry anthology

Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page selected by Siobhan Harvey, Harry Ricketts and James Norcliffe. Random House NZ (2014).

Another great anthology! There are just 150 poems - one each, from 150 NZ poets - carefully chosen by the three editors, who make no empty claim that they are the 'best' poems (because that always starts a fight anyway), just that they are their favourite New Zealand poems (in their own words: "we have chosen poems that reflect our subjective preferences").

In my opinion they've chosen well. They picked the Janet Frame poem that she thought was her 'best': 'The Place'. They have picked many of my own favourites, so reading this book is a reunion in many cases with a familiar old friend. But there are occasional surprises and there are plenty of exciting new poets and poems to add freshness to the palate of someone who has a very large number of the other poetry anthologies produced in New Zealand, on a shelf in the same room.

Initially I was shocked to find that the great Kendrick Smithyman (a personal favourite of mine) was omitted. And then the wonderful Ursula Bethell, and Ron Mason, and others, are not there. But I was mollified somewhat by the explanation that the anthology intended only to cover those poets writing from the 1950s on. This decision has fortuitously made room for many fine new poets who may otherwise have had to wait their turn. But the cutoff point of the 1950s doesn't explain the absence of Smithyman, who was writing well past then, or others such as Wystan Curnow, Leigh Davis, Sam Sampson, Alan Loney, Alan Brunton, to name just a few obvious missing in action (and there is a pattern emerging).

Clearly the choice for this book was to be an overall conservatively accessible one, nothing too much there to scare the horses, as one would expect from a handsome burnished book with a golden ribbon, published by a main stream publisher. And at least the editors have been honest about their rationale, and they have delivered an excellent selection. These books do very well in the local market, and long may they do so. We New Zealanders love our poets and we love our poetry.

This is another volume highly recommended as a literate Christmas gift that ticks all the "buy local, buy a book' boxes, and that is sure to be welcomed warmly into any home.



Just some of the Janet Frame publications and publications including work by Janet Frame that have been published in the past year.

As you know if you are a regular reader, I have hardly been near this blog this year, but that doesn't mean I have been shirking. Plenty of work has been done on the Janet Frame front, including working toward making more titles available as ebooks where possible. This is not an easy process because we have to protect Janet Frame's print legacy as well, but we feel we have made good progress - more on that soon.

So there is not an absence of 'news and views' - there is just a blog backlog! This blog, as with so many others, has suffered neglect partly because of the advent of Facebook, which makes sharing photographs, snippets of information, news and links, so much faster and simpler, and Facebook can reach larger groups of people. With a stress on the can reach, because Facebook's algorithims can famously frustrate Facebook page admins by limiting the number of people that see any particular post, no matter how many 'likes' the page has. Another limitation with Facebook is that it's not really the place for the longer more complicated postings (such as the challenging but necessary 4,000 word essay the Frame executors posted here a few days ago in rebuttal of accusations made against them in a recent academic journal).

The Facebook page can be found at:

Facebook may not be the place for complex expositions, but compared to the fast moving, shallow and often sarcastic Twitter, Facebook is deep indeed. I tend to try to keep away from Twitter.

Above is a snapshot of some of the print books that have joined the Janet Frame shelves this year.

Missing is a book of New Zealand short stories translated into Spanish; the Trust's copy went astray and is still on its way.

Pending are (off the top of my head):
The posthumous collection of short stories in Italian translation;
In the Memorial Room (Janet Frame's 13th and last published novel) in Italian translation;
a new UK edition of Owls Do Cry;
a Slovenian short story collection;
US paperback of In the Memorial Room;
a Mexican Spanish poetry collection;
a selection of poems in Swedish translation;
a new Polish edition of Faces in the Water;
a Serbian edition of Janet Frame's An Angel at My Table (3-volume autobiography);
a Russian edition of An Angel at My Table (3-vol);
a Turkish edition of An Angel at My Table (3-vol);
a Korean edition of one of the novels - can't recall which one.

Studying Janet Frame at school

Janet Frame's books have for many years been used not just at University level but in secondary schools and colleges in New Zealand and around the world as set texts. Passages from longer works as well as separate poems and stories have also been used for study and in examinations. Although she has acquired a reputation for 'difficulty', much of Frame's work is entirely suitable for what is these days called the 'YA' reader, and discerning school teachers have always known this. I'm often told by writers that their first sparks of enthusiasm for their vocation were fired by an enlightened and gifted teacher who shared their enthusiasm for Janet Frame among other great authors.

For example, last year Janet Frame's 1963 novel Towards Another Summer - first published only after her death, but within a very short time earning its place as one of her much loved classic titles around the world and in many languages - was a set text for the University of Cambridge International Examinations A Level Literature in English (along with the likes of Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Wole Soyinka,  Arundhati Roy, WH Auden, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Edith Wharton, Raymond Carver, Annie Proulx, Seamus Heaney, Doris Lessing, Brian Friel, Virginia Woolf, etc.)

There were just four other New Zealanders represented on the list of set texts: all amongst our finest poets: Allen Curnow, Fleur Adcock, James K Baxter and Hone Tuwhare.

Janet Frame's short story 'The Bath' was also a set text for A Level study in 2013 for the same institution.

'The Bath' and 'You are now entering the human heart' are great educational favourites internationally and at the Frame estate we frequently process permissions for reprint rights for those stories among others. One recent overseas publisher's proposed print run of a textbook containing a classic Janet Frame short story was for several hundred thousand copies.

Janet Frame's work also appears in electronic learning modules produced for second language learners in places like Germany and Sweden and Malaysia.

Back in New Zealand, educational authorities by law do not need to ask copyright permission to use an author's work in a school exam (for school study hand-outs they must negotiate copying rights through an independent copyright agency). So I am not aware of all the occasions in which a Janet Frame text has been used in external exams in New Zealand, but I do know that her poem 'Compass' appeared in an exam sometime in the last few years, which means that publishers of educational texts are starting to ask for the rights to reprint this poem in their exam prep books. 'Compass' was first printed in 2006 in the posthumous collection The Goose Bath (the publication of which Janet Frame had set in motion before her death in 2004).

A range of the popular NZ ESA study guides for English has regularly included Janet Frame texts suitable to each level.

ESA Level 2 English Study Guide (2014)


Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children

This beautiful book would make a fantastic Christmas present for any family with children. The illustrations are effervescent and attractive, the poems are chosen from the very best children's poems from the finest New Zealand writers (including, of course, Janet Frame), and the book itself is a well designed and sturdy (but not ungainly) jacketed hardback with THREE ribbons for marking the place of your favourite poems.

A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children edited by Paula Green, illustrated by Jenny Cooper, published by Random House New Zealand, 2014.
ISBN: 9781775533566

There are two Janet Frame poems, 'The Cat of Habit' and 'The Old Bull'.

Other much loved New Zealand authors include Margaret Mahy, Hone Tuwhare, James K Baxter, Elizabeth Smither, Joy Cowley, along with many, many others, some new names, and some children themselves contribute excellent poems too.

This is a collection that will be cherished by younger and older children, and you don't have to be a child to enjoy this anthology. I was particularly intrigued to discover that comedian Jon Gadsby had written such entertaining and inventive poems. Really a lovely book, and the illustrations are delightful.

A house for sale on Janet Frame Way

There's a house for sale on Janet Frame Way, just off Katherine Mansfield Drive.
The house is set on a lifestyle block in a secluded valley near Upper Hutt in Wellington, New Zealand.
It seems like a perfect location for a writer's retreat, in a peaceful semi-rural area yet very close to all the amenities of the capital city.
I visited Janet Frame Way recently for the first time.
I'd certainly buy that house if I could!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Canon Fodder: a response to a paper by Jane Stafford

Jane Stafford is inaccurate and misleading in her recent paper ('The signs, the traces of my feeling’: editing the Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature') in the Journal of New Zealand Literature (2013; v.31:2) concerning the absence of work by Janet Frame in the Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature (2012) which Stafford co-edited.  

            Stafford implies that she and her co-editor Mark Williams had ‘much correspondence’  with Frame’s estate. They did not. They made no direct approach to the Janet Frame Literary Trust (the legal entity responsible for Frame’s copyright), leaving Auckland University Press staff to mediate negotiations. Stafford in her apologia states that:
‘In the end, after much correspondence, intervention on our behalf by others, and our offering entirely new selections, including one which had an almost exclusively Frame section (something entirely at odds with the way in which the rest of the anthology was organised), we felt that we were unable to represent Frame in a way that was appropriate or adequate to her work’.

            That the editors were ‘unable to represent Frame in a way that was appropriate or adequate to her work’ is something that the Frame executors can agree on! Stafford goes on to say that ‘In retrospect we do see ...  our selections did ‘read’ Frame in a particular way’. But she does not seem to see anything wrong with that. The editors’ prime selection criteria for their anthology was not quality but the suitability of an author’s work to fit into their theoretical framework: ‘we believe that literature is seen at its most interesting in context ... authorial brilliance was not our first concern’.

            This of course conflicted with the Janet Frame estate’s own agenda, which (happily) is very much concerned with authorial brilliance, and with the author’s reputation and the integrity of her body of work. Quite apart from their desires for the rest of their project, the editors of the AUP anthology had constructed a flawed and unbalanced de facto ‘canon’ of Frame’s work, that we the estate knew from our wider experience of non-academic publishing was likely to be extracted from much of the rest of the anthology, especially internationally, where Frame is one of the few New Zealand literary names known, and where reprints of her work can command market prices. The publisher was seeking international digital rights along with carte blanche for the formulation of subsets of material from within the anthology for unstated purposes and within undeclared contexts. We could not allow this inadequate Frame corpus of over 12,000 words, weighted heavily towards her early career, to represent Frame’s output over her entire career. At that stage our concern was not with the major flaw at the heart of the AUP Anthology, later identified by numerous critics: that the book which claimed on its cover to offer the best New Zealand writing (‘our guide to what’s worth reading – and why’), was in fact not selected with the ‘best’ work in mind, but rather selected because they were the best pieces to showcase [the editors’ view of] New Zealand’s sociological and historical makeup. Our concern was as it should be (by definition) for a responsible literary estate, to agree on an appropriate and high quality and representative range of Frame’s best work. We did attempt to be generous and flexible but this was not appreciated. The editors did not seem to want Frame in all her glory – they wanted her as a muted and submissive wallpaper ‘to add lustre’ to the new generation (consisting largely of staff and alumni from their own university) - but not to challenge or outshine it.

            The ‘intervention on our behalf by others’ instigated by the editors consisted of an emotionally manipulative email sent by a friend of the editors to the trustees and an indirect approach via a family member of one trustee. Frame herself warned us while preparing us as her representatives, about such indirect approaches, and even clearly stated her own principle: you need to discourage the attempt to get to you by flattering or otherwise leaning on a close friend or family member. In that case her answer was always no. In our case, we had already said no before the attempt to rope in a family member (who, to their credit, did not really want to be involved in such business matters anyway). There was no conversation or direct communication between the editors and the trustees at any stage of the negotiation. The trustees only received each new list of proposed excerpts by email from Auckland University Press staff.

Early dust wrapper design with the iconic Caxton Lagoon cover prominent, even though the proposed selection of texts included no Janet Frame short stories

            Though the Anthology’s original cover design (pictured above) included part of the cover of Frame’s first book The Lagoon and Other Stories published by Caxton Press in 1952, the editors’ initial selection of Frame’s work did not include any short story at all by Frame from any of her several collections, despite her undeniable status as one of New Zealand’s finest short story writers. There were only extracts from longer works, not all of which in our opinion worked very well out of their own context, and there was only one slight poem, which was not at all representative of Frame’s poetic contributions to literature. She only published one book of poetry in her lifetime but it was a very influential one, published in many different editions and selling at least 25,000 copies around the world. Most of her novels also contained enough poetry within them to fill several slim volumes. Her posthumously published poetry volume The Goose Bath has sold more than 8,000 copies in several editions and reprints.  This is not the record of an insignificant poet and her work has continued to reach a substantial and appreciative audience since her death in 2004. Stafford and Williams did not seem to want to include self-contained works by Frame, or to represent the breadth of her oeuvre across time or across genres.
             The editors ‘thought that the Frame pieces we chose in our first selection were brilliant’. They were probably brilliant for the purpose of assembling a quirky and anecdotal history of New Zealand, but they were not brilliant as a selection of the work of a major world writer in what purported to be a serious anthology of New Zealand literature. The editors selected a fifteen page long section from Owls Do Cry (of over 5,000 words) featuring the character Chicks, a deliberately flat and ironic treatment of a shallow social climber that works in the context of the whole novel, but not when ripped out and inserted in another context. They slotted this passage into their thematic sub-section Suburbia within their 1945 to 1960 chronological section entitled Fretful Sleepers.  Frame did not favour abridgement of her work, especially where this was to suit a wider agenda. She  was especially careful with any treatment of Owls Do Cry having repeatedly turned down requests to make film adaptations of her first novel because of her distaste at the persistent misreadings of it as if it were non-fiction rather than fiction.
            A knowledgeable and sensitive editor would have been aware of these historical (and still valid) issues but Stafford and Williams didn’t know or care about the deficiencies of the Frame canon they had gathered together to present to the international literary and educational community as a representation of what was ‘worth reading’ of her work. They seemed to expect the authors and estates at the other end of their own decisions to quietly sign their assent without demur: ‘the overwhelming majority of authors and estates responded positively and in a business-like manner – that is, they signed the permissions form and returned it promptly.’ Although there was quite an outcry after publication when some authors and copyright holders regretted the eccentric context their work had been set within, and several of them have privately contacted the Frame trustees to praise our stand and to say that if they had known the agenda of the anthology (or in some cases, if they had not already ceded their authority to some publisher who rubber-stamped the excerpt without even notifying the author or estate), they too would have withheld permission.
            Stafford and Williams’ proposed Frame selection did not include any non-fiction except two passages from her autobiography that related to her early life. The Trust suggested via Sam Elworthy, Auckland University Press’s publisher, who mediated negotiations, that the editors choose one of Frame’s essays instead. Frame published several substantial essays, only one of which did she later dismiss, namely the essay ‘Beginnings’ published in Landfall in 1965. Though a clear explanation of the author’s position on this early work is detailed in Michael King’s Frame biography Wrestling with the Angel (as well as in the volume of Frame’s non-fiction Janet Frame In Her Own Words where Frame clarifies that ‘I didn’t explain properly and I was too melodramatic’), Stafford and Williams decided to select this very controversial item for their anthology. Again they were being either wilfully ignorant or arrogantly dismissive of the considerable baggage carried by such a provocative last minute choice. It was hard for us to tell because we were not party to their reasoning.
            Stafford declares in her paper that their initial selection included Frame poems. Untrue. They selected one poem, the brief ‘Instructions for Bombing with Napalm’ (a 59-word piece of political word play employing puns and anagrams) which they put into their thematic sub-group The Bomb is Made within their chronological section for the 1960s called From Kiwi Culture to Counter-Culture. The editors seemed to consider that by selecting this poem they had, ‘represent[ed] Frame in a way that was appropriate or adequate to her work’. They didn’t seem to notice that they had placed the poem about napalm – Frame being as usual, ahead of her time - among post-war poems by Keith Sinclair and Hone Tuwhare that referred to the advent of nuclear weapons. Her own one belonged thematically (and stylistically, perhaps) with poems by Ian Wedde and David Mitchell, located a decade later and entitled ‘BECAUSE HE WAS A MAN: SPEAKING OF WAR’ (you can see why Frame didn’t fit there – and this example shows how awkward and arbitrary the Stafford & Williams thematic categories are, and how they conflict with the chronological overlay).
            The editors eventually, and by all accounts reluctantly, suggested a handful of short poems to add to ‘Instructions for Bombing with Napalm’. They also selected a longer poem, ‘The Landfall Desk’, first published in 2002 (two years before Frame’s death) but miscategorised as ‘posthumous’ by Stafford and Williams. This is also not one of Frame’s major poems but had the virtue of fitting into their scenario of works that ‘conversed’ with works by other writers. The editors stated in various interviews that the ability to ‘enter conversations’ with other works was a key criterion for selection. The protagonist of the poem, the Landfall magazine desk that Frame had owned, now resides in the foyer of the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University in Wellington, the institution attended by a majority of the writers chosen for the last chronological section of the anthology. In the poem, Frame speaks to the desk; in the anthology, the poem about the desk was selected to ‘enter into conversation’ with the works of Victoria University alumni.
            The editors’ selection of Frame items showed a pattern: they chose Frame texts that fitted into a theoretical framework of New Zealand literary correspondences and echoes. Stafford and Williams proposed as the epigraph to their anthology an excerpt from Frame’s posthumously published novel Towards Another Summer in which she writes of the enthusiasm of the main character for Allen Curnow’s influential anthology A Book of New Zealand Verse (1945). This epigraph, in its focus on a New Zealand literary event involving literary figures, mirrors the editors’ initial selection of a three page long extract from Frame’s autobiography describing her first meeting with Charles Brasch. Frame was of course, so prolific and so versatile that one can understand the editors' temptation to fill gaps in their grand narrative by plugging them with Frame's word on the subject, but it led to a narrow representation of her range and style.
            There are many other aspects of Stafford’s article concerning Janet Frame and her Trust that are incorrect, or falsely speculative; too many to cover here. Stafford frequently employs innuendo rather than facts. In making the comment that ‘Trustees have an unenviable job when it comes to issues for which they have been given no guidance by their author’, Stafford implies that the Frame trustees have had no such guidance. Yet Stafford, who has definitely received no such guidance from Frame, hypocritically presumes to know better than Frame’s trustees what Frame wanted. In an interview on National Radio that Stafford and Williams gave soon after the publication of the anthology, she stated that Frame would have approved their selection of Frame extracts. And in her JNZL paper Stafford makes the extraordinary claim that the editors’ replacement epigraph (a passage from Katherine Mansfield) ‘is a quote that she [Frame] would have felt at home with’, having a few pages earlier ridiculed Frame’s trustees for relying on ‘some vaguely conceived notion' of 'what the departed would have wanted'. The trustees are professionally and academically qualified for the task, they were the author’s intimate friends chosen by Frame (after decades of preparation and conversation) to be the executors of her estate and the guardians of her copyright, yet Stafford here claimed to know better than them 'what the departed would have wanted'.
            Frame provided her trustees with a great deal of guidance. She made clear what she wanted: by personal communication, by repeatedly expounding her principles, and by her own practise. She planned for posthumous publication. She spoke often and publicly of the various manuscripts that would have to ‘wait’ until her death. For example, Frame named her posthumous poetry collection ‘The Goose Bath’, and she spoke about her plans for it to be published posthumously to each of the three co-editors, including Professor Bill Manhire, whom she telephoned about the project shortly before her death, asking him to agree to advise on the edit.  Yet Stafford compares the posthumous Frame publishing to ‘hawk[ing] a man’s buttons and pins after he is dead’. She tells horror stories about misadventures in the Katherine Mansfield and other estates, implying that all this is also true of the Frame estate. She complains that ‘[the executors] seemed to be urging upon us a number of pieces that they themselves had published in their posthumous collections” as if Frame had not written the works and had not herself (mischievously, perhaps) deliberately planned to continue her own unique ‘conversation’ with contemporary New Zealand literature, inconvenient though that may be to her former colleagues as well as to academic theory builders and literary empire builders. Stafford then goes on to belittle the various posthumous Frame publications as a whole, yet all of them have been published in multiple countries and editions and almost all of them have already been translated into several languages. All have been highly acclaimed critically and several of the titles have had commercial success as well, not that we would want to judge the quality of the posthumous work by sales alone.
            Stafford accuses the Trust of ‘an anti-academic stance’. This is not true – the Trust is only ‘anti’ misrepresentation. Over the last decade, the Trust has worked professionally and fruitfully (in a ‘business-like manner’, if you prefer) with many academics as well as with dozens of editors, researchers, composers and musicians, artists, film-makers, journalists, biographers, publishers, literary historians, conference organisers, literary festivals, teachers and students.  It is interesting that as an academic Stafford feels comfortable in lambasting Frame’s executors in print and on the radio and at lecterns around the world, but if the Frame estate raises any criticism whatsoever it is described in words such as ‘scorn’, ‘denigration’, ‘outraged’, ‘abusive’, ‘vituperative’. In fact Stafford says this: “The Trust will castigate anyone who says anything they deem to be negative or misleading about Frame’s work, or about Frame herself.” Anyone who says anything. This is the closest that Stafford gets to the pouting intonations and childish whining of the kindergarten playground. If the Trust bothered to castigate everyone who got anything wrong, we would have had no time at all to achieve the outstanding results that we can proudly point to, of the past ten years of substantial publishing and translation of Janet Frame’s work in dozens of languages and countries around the world, including bringing all her work back into print in New Zealand, cleaning up some rather murky publishing arrangements, and finding new markets and outlets and audiences for work that is reaching an increasing number of admirers. And if it is so wrong to castigate and criticise when one identifies a perceived injustice, what double standard has led Stafford to compose this vicious attack on the Frame executors in the first place?
            Stafford’s exaggeration in this critique of her seeming bête noir the Frame estate can be illustrated by one of the many unwarranted accusations she makes against the Janet Frame Literary Trust. She claims that: ‘The homepage of the Trust’s website has a warning not to read the Wikipedia entry on Frame’. A warning not to read. Wow! How unreasonable! How controlling is that! One can almost hear the rapid intake of breath, the shock and awe among the scholars and expats in London on hearing of these monstrous interlopers who ‘took over’ on Frame’s death and who dare to tell you what to think and to censor your reading! Using the phrase ‘took over’ of the people who were long-time intimates of Frame’s, and whom she had personally appointed to the task of trustees five years earlier, is unreasonable rhetoric, but the audience apparently lapped it up. There was an online report after Stafford’s London talk from someone present who was suitably and predictably - given the false propaganda he was fed - shocked and horrified to learn of the outrageous behaviour of the Frame estate, and happy to say so publicly, as if he did not realise he had been mostly been presented with good old fashioned slander. So, what does the website ( actually say? It says what any reputable academic should say about Wikipedia anyway:
We do not recommend the Wikipedia article on Janet Frame. It is incomplete, it has a non-neutral bias, it gives unwarranted prominence to fringe theories and it quotes unreliable sources. Details concerning posthumous publications are missing or inaccurate. (Please note that Wikipedia does contain an important and oft-overlooked disclaimer to the effect that no information on the collaborative encyclopedia can be guaranteed to be reliable.)

            To sum up: our website does not say ‘don’t read it’. It says 'read it with a grain of salt'. And we did actually say why we don’t recommend the Wikipedia article in some detail but that does not stop Stafford from speculating on our reasons, which she thinks are: ‘perhaps because it says that her [Frame’s] critical reception was mixed; perhaps because of the biographical notes.’ Right. We have to be acting out of wounded pride or from shame and denial of some ‘truth’ that only the obsessive compulsives who patrol Wikipedia apparently are in possession of, with their constant tinkering at technical minutiae and their blindness towards the huge errors and biases (such as the institutional sexism) of the do-it-yourself encyclopedia. Sure, that’ll work. Stafford does not discern from our explanation that we have valid intellectual objections to the mess that amateurs and professional rivals have made of the Janet Frame article, including the bibliographic errors and oversights.
            Stafford also spitefully but quite seriously suggests that the Janet Frame estate has been derelict in its duty to let the author ‘be read’. Our vigorous record of publishing and of promoting Frame’s work (old and new) speaks for itself, and her misrepresentation of our achievements approaches character assassination. She has already shown her inability to comprehend one small paragraph about Wikipedia; clearly she is also unable to comprehend the objective and tangible size of the local and international publishing record that the Janet Frame Literary Trust has chalked up in ten years, including using the profits from royalty income to gift over 100,000 dollars to the next generation of New Zealand poets and novelists.
            Stafford certainly crosses the line into defamation when she misrepresents the legal action the Frame estate took against CK Stead when he published a previously unpublished manuscript and unpublished excerpts from letters in his memoir without permission (or even the courtesy of notification). Janet Frame had instructed her estate to sue the first person who published an unpublished manuscript without permission, no matter who it was, and so we did – or at least we threatened to, in order to seek an apology and to discourage the other vultures who were circling, keen to exploit Frame’s private life rather than celebrate her literary output. Stead and the Frame estate settled that action; we won: we secured an apology from him and the publisher and we all agreed to a confidentiality clause, although Stead has shamelessly violated the spirit of that agreement subsequently by publicly lying about the facts of the case. He hasn’t violated the law of the agreement, because he has not revealed the truth, only his minimised version of it. Stafford, blithely ignorant of the facts, repeats some malicious gossip she has heard, summing up the whole legal case in words that are untrue, grossly unfair to the Frame estate and frankly actionable if the estate could be bothered.
           Stafford makes another false and libellous claim, that the 'Trust's website' had made 'outraged and abusive' and 'vituperative' attacks on a blogger and on Fergus Barrowman, the editor of Victoria University Press. Conveniently, these 'abusive' attacks were allegedly 'later taken down' (which is also a lie) therefore very conveniently there is no evidence for them, only the exaggerated and malicious hearsay that they occurred, which Stafford repeats and embellishes. This false accusation about the Frame Estate's website is based in fact on a blog post Pamela Gordon made not on any official Janet Frame website or blog, but on her semi-anonymous personal blog Schroedinger's Tabby, in which Gordon did let off steam, referring angrily to a group of predominantly 'mommy bloggers' and 'Tweeps' who were loosely associated with Victoria University Press and the Victoria University creative writing school, who had been part of a 'blog-up' and tweet-up' social media campaign to promote an exploitative fan fiction novel based on Janet Frame, that had been published by Victoria University Press. The campaign was orchestrated by the then publicist at the Press, Helen Heath, who claimed on Goodreads that the fan fic novel was 'honestly, the best New Zealand novel I've read in years'. (Not a good sign for the other novels Heath was paid to promote). Gordon called the group (who also included some men) 'flunkie bitches pissing on [Frame's] grave'. Susan Pearce (a literary blogger whom Gordon had never heard of until then) apparently took this nasty accusation personally. Delicate sensibilities indeed for someone who affects to have the intellectual and emotional stamina to understand the issues involved. Certainly Pearce had no idea of the history of misogyny behind the egregious project she vigorously defended. The Frame executor's blog does contain stringent intellectual criticism, and some honest emotion, but none of that approaches the hostility of Stafford in her 'refereed' article of which genre one might expect higher standards and more objectivity than in any blog post. As for the personal, semi-anonymous blog, it was clearly written by an aggrieved family member of a recently deceased celebrity whose identity had been hijacked and reinvented, and anyone who sided with the perpetrator of such an insult should expect some fallout.
              Stafford and Williams were never willing to be explicit about their unconventional selection strategy and their idiosyncratic thematic divisions.  The wide-ranging and outspoken critiques of their unconventional ‘anthology’ when it was published seem to have come as a surprise to the editors (and the publisher). Although Stafford’s article in the Journal of New Zealand Literature did not appear on library shelves until earlier this year, it predates the storm of criticism. The paper is based on an outpouring of self-vindication and vindictiveness that Stafford presented to the inaugural seminar of the New Zealand Studies Network in London in July 2012, four months before publication day. As far as Stafford seemed to be aware when she gave this talk, the absence of Frame was the only problematic issue with the Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature, and she took pains to make sure her audience was clear whose fault that was. In retrospect her paper appears now as a case study in hubris.  

Final dust wrapper without Lagoon cover and without any texts by Janet Frame
NB: This is the first time that anyone from the Frame estate has spoken publicly about the AUP Anthology and we do it in self-defence. We deliberately remained silent at the time of publication two years ago despite unfair accusations made about us by the editors and those who believed them. We were quite sure by then that the absence of Frame from the Anthology was not the worst problem with Stafford & Williams, and we resisted the attempt of the editors to bait us into a time-wasting argument played out in the media. We did not want to fan their obvious rage against the Frame estate, or let them use us for publicity.  We were hoping to leave plenty of room for the other valid critiques that might have been overwhelmed by such sensationalist tactics. Fortunately plenty of voices were raised to acknowledge the weaknesses and failures and the other serious omissions of what seemed to us an ill-conceived project that had a basic contradiction at its heart: the publisher had a bright idea to produce a nice generous (and hopefully bestselling) anthology of the best of Kiwi writing; unfortunately this goal conflicted with the editors’ self-indulgent plans to subvert the anthology project for theoretical reasons, and while they did produce a monstrosity that does provide in parts a thumping good read, because it does include a lot of good writers and a lot of good writing (although you can find most of that elsewhere in more palatable formats) it fails to provide all the best writers, all the genres, and all the best work, because the editors never intended that it should.
 ‘The signs, the traces of my feeling’: editing the Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature, Jane Stafford, Journal of New Zealand Literature: JNZL No. 31:2, Special Issue: New Zealand's Cultures: Histories, Sources, Futures (2013), pp. 145-162 

Reviews of the AUP Anthology: