Friday, January 29, 2016

"Remember me"

Janet Frame died 12 years ago today
on the 29th January 2004
at Dunedin Hospital, from leukaemia.
She died, alert and conscious, comforted in the arms of loved ones.
 This beautiful tribute to Janet Frame was first published on the 30th January 2004 in the Dominion Post and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the artist Tom Scott.
'Small Farewell' by Janet Frame 

Writing letters of goodbye
we are inclined to say
because we have read
or heard it said
or knew someone who likewise went away
that small details pester the memory.

In the corner closet of your eye
in the back room of seeing
that looks out on the backyard of yesterday
who can pretend to say
what you will muffle in moth balls
or soak with insect spray 

to stop the spread of memory’s decay?

I think all I can say
from hearing a ghost speak in a Shakespeare play
is, if you were Hamlet, and I your father’s ghost,
–Remember me. 

['Small Farewell' was first published posthumously in The Goose Bath, Random House NZ, 2006. Janet Frame's Selected Poems are available in the collection Storms Will Tell, Bloodaxe, 2008.]

Thursday, January 28, 2016

BBC Culture: What makes Owls Do Cry a literary classic?

There was another discussion of Janet Frame and her first novel Owls Do Cry last week on BBC Radio. Donna Coonan of Virago Modern Classics and writer and critic Stuart Kelly talked to Janice Forsyth of BBC Radio Scotland about what constitutes a literary classic.

Listen or download here: Revisiting Literary Classics (Janice Forsyth Show)


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

BBC podcast: Margaret Drabble on Janet Frame

There was a most interesting discussion about Janet Frame last week on BBC Radio 4  between Woman's Hour presenter Jane Garvey and author Margaret Drabble.

This conversation (timed at 18.35 on the podcast) marked the reissue of Janet Frame's first novel Owls Do Cry as a Virago Modern Classic. This edition includes an Introduction written by Margaret Drabble for Owls Do Cry, a book she describes as 'riveting'.

Download or listen here.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Neil Hegarty On Janet Frame

'A song of survival: Neil Hegarty on Janet Frame and Owls Do Cry'

Such a thoughtful, fascinating and well-researched review of Janet Frame's Owls Do Cry in The Irish Times today! The new Virago Modern Classics edition is attracting some excellent commentary, and the time is certainly long overdue for a fresh perspective to be brought upon this classic novel and on Janet Frame's oeuvre in general:
"Owls Do Cry is a devastating reflection on the character of conventional society and the dangers that await those who reject its narrowness – and as such, is profoundly chilling. It is also a vivid social document, capturing the language and texture of the postwar period. It is a heartbreaking evocation of childhood and a child’s vision of the world; and not least, it is a work of considerable lyrical beauty."
 Hegarty gives some of the history of reception of Frame's debut novel and indeed the "prurient" and "unmistakably gendered" attention to analysing her private life "for evidence of madness or eccentricity".

But, he says, Frame survived, and the work she produced is her vindication:
"she emerged victorious – and the evidence of this victory lies not in parsing excessively the stuff of her life, but in reading what she created in the course of it."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Janet Frame: A chronology

Janet Frame 1924-2004
Photo: Karen Day
1924 Janet Paterson Frame is born in Dunedin, New Zealand
1943 – 1946 Studies at the University of Otago (English, French, Philosophy, Psychology)
1946 Publishes first adult story, ‘University Entrance’ in the New Zealand Listener
1952 The Lagoon and Other Stories published, wins Hubert Church Award for Prose
1957 Publishes first novel, Owls Do Cry
Signs with AM Heath literary agency, London, and Brandt & Brandt literary agency, New York
1958 Changes her name by deed poll to Nene Janet Paterson Clutha and reserves the name Janet Frame for her writing
1961 Faces in the Water (novel)
1962 The Edge of the Alphabet (novel)
1963 Scented Gardens for the Blind (novel)
The Reservoir: Stories and Sketches
Snowman, Snowman: Fables and Fantasies (stories)
1965  Robert Burns Fellow, University of Otago
The Adaptable Man (novel)
1966 A State of Siege (novel)
The Reservoir and Other Stories
1967  Residency at Yaddo Artists’ Community, Saratoga Springs, New York
The Pocket Mirror (poetry)
1968 The Rainbirds also known as Yellow Flowers in the Antipodean Room (novel)
1969 Residency at Yaddo
MacDowell Fellow, MacDowell Colony, New Hampshire
Mona Minim and the Smell of the Sun (children’s book)
1970 Residency at Yaddo
Intensive Care (novel)
1972 President of Honour, The New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN New Zealand Inc)
Daughter Buffalo (novel)
1974  Katherine Mansfield Fellow, Menton, France
1977 Gives paper at Cross-cultural Conference, East-West Centre, Hawaii
Guest of Honour, International PEN Congress, Sydney
1978 A State of Siege film adaptation by Vincent Ward
Honorary Doctorate of Literature from University of Otago
1979  Living in the Maniototo (novel)
1981 Signs with Curtis Brown Literary Agency, London and Sydney
1982 To the Is-land (autobiography volume 1)
1983 CBE (Commander of the British Empire)
You Are Now Entering the Human Heart (stories)
1984 Gives readings at International Authors’ Festival, Toronto
Gives readings at Christchurch Arts Festival
Turnovsky Prize for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts
An Angel at My Table (autobiography volume 2)
1985 The Envoy from Mirror City (autobiography volume 3)
1986 Honorary Foreign Member of American Academy of Arts and Letters
1987 Inaugural Frank Sargeson Fellow
1988 The Carpathians (novel)
1989 The Carpathians wins the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book
Omnibus edition of To the Is-land, An Angel at My Table and The Envoy from Mirror City published as An Autobiography (also known at The Complete Autobiography and An Angel at My Table)
1990 Member of the Order of New Zealand (New Zealand's highest honour)
An Angel at My Table film adaptation by Jane Campion
1992 Honorary Doctorate of Literature from University of Waikato
1993 Massey University Medal
Premi Brancati Prize, Italy
1994 President of Honour, The New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN New Zealand Inc)
Gives readings at International Festival of the Arts, Wellington as part of her public 70th Birthday Celebration
1996 Gabriela Mistral Medal, Chile
1999 Janet Frame establishes the Janet Frame Literary Trust
2003 Arts Foundation Icon Award
Inaugural Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement
2004 Janet Frame dies in Dunedin aged 79
2006 The Goose Bath (poems) published posthumously
2007 Janet Frame Literary Trust signs with The Wylie Agency New York and London
The Goose Bath wins the poetry category at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards
Towards Another Summer (novel, written 1963) published posthumously
2008 Storms Will Tell: Selected Poems published posthumously
2009 Prizes: Selected Short Stories also known as The Daylight and the Dust
2010 Dear Charles, Dear Janet: Frame & Brasch in Correspondence (fine edition)
2011 Janet Frame In Her Own Words (collected non-fiction writings)
2012 Gorse is Not People also known as Between My Father and the King (stories) published posthumously
2013 In the Memorial Room (novel, written 1974) published posthumously
The Mijo Tree (story, written 1957) published posthumously
2016 Jay to Bee: Janet Frame’s Letters to William (Bill) Theophilus Brown, 1969-71


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Milestone for Counterpoint Press

"Quality, thoughtful publishing"

US independent literary publisher Counterpoint Press last year celebrated its 20th anniversary and this was noted in November 2015 by an interesting article in Publishers Weekly that gave some background to the history of the various imprints associated with Counterpoint LLC: Soft Skull, Counterpoint, Shoemaker & Hoard.

Counterpoint has published several of Janet Frame's posthumous and backlist titles. One of these, Between My Father and the King, was the book of theirs mentioned by Publishers Weekly that earned a front page spot in the New York Times Book Review:

"Reviews and critical success have also increased. Since the fall of 2013, the press has had 18 reviews in the New York Times Book Review, with one title making the cover."

In mid-2016 Counterpoint will release the first volume of Janet Frame's letters to her friend Bill Brown, Jay to Bee, and a fresh American edition of her autobiography An Angel at My Table is being prepared for publication later in the year.

"They publish books that matter."

 Counterpoint's Janet Frame editions:



Monday, January 18, 2016

There's nothing like a Dame

When Janet Frame was awarded the CBE in 1983, she said: “I’m pleased to be honoured for myself and for other writers, for it is a way of accepting writers into the esteemed company of athletes and accountants and thus recognising them as part of our daily life.” She did, however, admit “a modicum of regret” that she had not achieved the title “Dame Frame”.

(Source: 'A Biographical Note' Scoop, 29 January 2004)

Janet Frame later skipped the opportunity to become a Dame when in 1990 she was awarded New Zealand's highest honour, membership of the Order of New Zealand.

"Anyway, my American friends call me a dame," she used to say.

I know that Janet would have been delighted to hear that Jane Campion has been appointed that elusive title of 'Dame' by the New Zealand Government in the 2016 New Year Honours. It's a long-overdue recognition on the part of Campion's home country. Campion has had a stellar film-making career that of course included AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE, that brilliant and much-loved screen adaptation of Janet Frame's autobiography, that first brought Jane Campion to the attention of the general public around the world. ANGEL was released in 35 countries and continues to be widely screened to this day.

Congratulations Dame Jane! (Janet would be just a bit jealous.)

NZ ONSCREEN tribute on the occasion of Jane Campion being named Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Naming Slanderers #1

Whilst engaged in one of my occasional 'rants' against various injustices, I have mentioned more than once that I (and the Janet Frame Literary Trust that I work for) am regularly publicly 'slandered'. I'm talking here about:
  • character assassination
  • defamation
  • libel
For all these it is necessary that a person's claims are not true. They are lies.

It's not slander if it's TRUE. It's not slander if you're dead either. You can't slander the dead. (You can 'piss' on their grave, but that's another story. And it's not illegal, it's just beneath contempt.)

A person is entitled to their own opinion, and they are entitled to criticise someone whose actions they disagree with, but they are NOT entitled to invent their own FACTS, especially if they choose to use those lies maliciously to deliberately attempt to harm the reputation of a person or an organisation.

So, call me a fat witch - that's not slander. (It's just pathetic of you, especially if you are a corpulent old walrus yourself!)

But start saying that I have mismanaged the job that Janet Frame gave me to do, and claim specifically that I have 'closed down' the dissemination of her work to the detriment of her 'reputation' - and you have technically broken the law.

Lucky for most of the people that defame me and the Janet Frame estate, we can't be bothered wasting time and money holding them to account for their poisonous lies (though I have assiduously kept screenshots over the years).

But there must be some remedy for the particularly blatant and foolish slanderer, short of litigation. Their poisonous innuendo spreads inexorably and it works its foul way through a group of people and does its damage.

I would like to put some of this on record so that at least some reasonable people in the future, when looking through all the evidence, will think, "Bloody hell, what a bunch of arseholes they are, slagging off people who are just doing their job - and doing it reasonably well too, for the most part."

(It's not 'slander' if you are an 'asshole'.)

I thought I would start a new occasional series where I would name a blatant liar who has gone out of their way to try to blacken the good name of the Janet Frame estate.

Naming Slanderers #1

#1 is Mark Hubbard, willing member of the NZ Lit Twitterati bully boys (and girls) who regularly "have a go" at me and Janet Frame and her estate. (Of course they are also "having a go" at her - because she asked me to do what I do. They pretend they are defending her 'reputation' against me! What nonsense. Often enough, if you Google that person further, who is whining on about the 'harm' Pamela Gordon does to her aunt's reputation, you find them admit they have not even read Janet Frame, and/or that they "don't like her stuff". So why should they care about her 'reputation'? They don't. They are just joining in with the 'pile-on', without even knowing what they are talking about...)

Here's a recent example:

 “ I think copyright should vest in the author, and die with them, otherwise artistic use has to be negotiated with beneficiaries and their lawyers, and that is to close down use almost completely to the detriment of the author - for example, Janet Frame's work can barely - if at all - be anthologised since her death.
~ Mark Hubbard (Saturday, October 10, 2015)

 "Janet Frame's work can barely - if at all - be anthologised since her death.” ~ (M.  Hubbard)

A statement that defames Janet Frame's legal representatives... because it is not true.

Wowee- that is one hell of a straw man Mr Hubbard has constructed. Sounds like that ol' Janet Frame estate is just lousy...

Wow - did they really "close down use"... ?? Nope, they did not!

Here are some facts, as represented in the three following photographs:

(1) These (above) are some of the published Janet Frame works since Janet Frame's death in 2004: reprints, new editions, new titles, extended licences and translations of previously published as well as posthumously published works. All of these books except 10 of them from one foreign publisher (that has been given an extended licence), are new editions or reprints and all the books required contract negotiations.
Countries include: New Zealand, Australia, USA, UK, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Romania, Japan, Slovenia, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Norway, Denmark, Brazil, Portugal, Slovakia, Russia, South Korea. Publications and translations not pictured here have also been negotiated with: Finland, Mexico, Czech Republic, Israel, Iran, Serbia, etc...

(2) The volumes on this shelf (above) mostly involved granting permission to use quotations and excerpts in non-fiction books as well as in educational texts. Some involved extensive and generous cooperation with the authors and editors of academic texts.
These are just the tip of the iceberg as the pictured books do not include the many other academic papers and theses and journals that have quoted Frame's work with permission, the authors of which have not provided gratis copies to the estate. There are also many foreign educational and literary anthologies not represented here - some (in India and the USA for example) have print runs running in to the hundreds of 1000s, and include poems or stories by Janet Frame with permission.
Increasingly foreign permissions especially in places like the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, involve digital texts that students access by means of passwords.
The Janet Frame Estate has a literary agency based in New York and London that mediates most of these international anthology and educational permissions with the approval of the Frame executor.

(3) This (above) is a shelf of mostly New Zealand anthologies that all include work by Janet Frame (it can be hard to get the foreign publishers to supply us with a gratis copy as international postage is so expensive and fraught - on the flipside of that, foreign deals do pay international market rates for excerpts from world-class authors such as Janet Frame, unlike NZ publishers, who usually pay only a pittance - if anything - but do at least usually provide a gratis copy of the book.)

All these books pictured were also all published since Frame's death, with the approval of Janet Frame's chosen legal representatives. (Her charitable trust is her beneficiary.)

As well as all these there have been countless posters, tapes, bookmarks, postcards, brochures and booklets produced with our permission. Songs have been composed to Frame's words, artworks made. Theatrical performances (eg Mona Minim in the Dutch language). Radio broadcasts and adaptations of poetry. Film adaptations of poetry and short stories. Etc. Etc.

This is not "shutting down" Frame!

And apart from all this - countless other works have been produced and published that have used the reasonable provision of "fair use" quotation, for the appropriate purposes.

If you want to quote Frame in your novel or your poem, you do need to ask permission, and many people have asked us and been granted that.

There has only been one very notable occasion when negotiations for use of Janet Frame copyright in an anthology failed (after her death, that is: she was famous for being extremely picky about what was reproduced and in which contexts, and she instructed her executors to continue these high standards).

And you can read that sorry tale here:

Canon Fodder: A response to a paper by Jane Stafford

I hope that it is now clear how much of a lie is Mark Hubbard's statement:

 "Janet Frame's work can barely - if at all - be anthologised since her death.

[Screenshot retrieved 30 October 2015]

 Here [following] are some old screenshots - not really libellous, just blowhard ad hominem stuff, typically vacuous Twitter conversation full of half-truth and speculation, in which a busybody know-it-all presumes to know what the *role* is of the literary executor of a great writer.
And two men agree that the autobiography of a great woman writer is just a fiction about someone who never existed, and that her real life identity is up for grabs less than ten years after her death.

Twitter screenshot: A mis-remembered, misunderstood half-truth is dismembered and reconstituted and used to attempt to discredit the Frame executor who has made a public statement about an unconnected ethical issue:

Isn't that just like the internet, where some nobody (Hubbard) who clearly doesn't know any of the facts about a certain 'role' nevertheless decides he knows what somebody's 'role' is!

I've just been reading Jon Ronson's excellent book So You've Been Publicly Shamed on the Internet where he investigates the phenomenon of social media shaming.

It was therapeutic to read, as someone who has been the target of some vicious attacks every time I have 'dared' to make a public statement to correct some error of fact, or had the temerity to express an opinion contrary to that of the NZ Literary establishment.

Rather than engaging with my arguments, the tendency of Twitter is to rush to discredit me and question my right to even speak at all. (This is called an 'ad hominem' attack.)  Hubbard contends that I have no right to speak publicly at all to defend my aunt from the myths and lies about her. That's not my 'role'.

"Having an opinion while female" or even "speaking while female" is still regarded as a terrible crime, sadly.

Hopefully as a result of Ronson's fine work, some Twitterers at least will learn to think twice before they rush to condemn someone on the basis of hearsay.

UPDATE 6 February 2016:

Still telling lies! Mark Hubbard is still guilty of defamation, in claiming wrongfully that the Janet Frame estate does not allow her work to be anthologised:

Bizarrely, Hubbard, who is apparently himself an accountant, accuses the personnel associated with literary estates of being 'suits'.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Janet Frame poem on a Krakow wall

Janet Frame's short but punchy poem 'Before I get into sleep with you' was projected on a wall in Krakow, Poland as part of an eMultipoetry project to promote interaction between UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Janet Frame's poem was translated into Polish by Anna Chociej:

Other Dunedin City of Literature poets to light up the Krakow night as part of the eMultipoetry collaboration include Emma Neale, Charles Brasch, Vincent O'Sullivan and David Eggleton.
Otago Daily Times report, 16 January 2016


Thursday, January 14, 2016

VMC OWLS DO CRY Publication Day

14 January 2016
It's publication day in the UK for the latest edition of Janet Frame's first novel Owls Do Cry.
Publisher Little, Brown has produced a beautiful paperback in the Virago Modern Classics imprint and this edition is also available as an ebook.
There is an illuminating introduction by Margaret Drabble.
I love the cover - the woman looks as though she is taking a selfie! Right up to date! And that's the general opinion of Frame's work - it's fresh and relevant still, even nearly 60 years after it was first published. (And Owls Do Cry has never been out of print in all that time.)
 As Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton, Frame's fellow Kiwi, said at the Jaipur Literature Festival:
"Janet Frame is the greatest New Zealand writer. She is utterly herself. Any one of her books could be published today and it would be ground-breaking."

As with the other Janet Frame books available from Virago Press, the VMC edition of Owls Do Cry will be widely available around the world in non-English-speaking countries (where there is nevertheless a demand for quality English literature!) and also in British Commonwealth territories except for New Zealand and Australia where for Owls Do Cry we are served well by the Text Classics edition published by Text Publishing of Melbourne.

 There are plans afoot to release a new American edition in 2017 to mark the 60th anniversary of first publication.