Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Sunday, July 11, 2021
A short story by Janet Frame
First published in JANET FRAME IN HER OWN WORDS (Penguin Books, 2011)
I was drinking coffee in a place in downtown Whanganui when I was approached by a middle-aged man who insisted that we knew each other. He sat opposite me without even a polite, May I sit here? and when I denied knowing him he smiled,
‘Of course you do. Remember Maniototo?’
He was referring to a novel I’d written. I wondered if perhaps he had written to me about the book and perhaps I had mislaid the letter and not answered it.
‘I’m not very good at answering letters, I’m afraid.’
‘You don’t remember, then?’
He said his name.
I repeated it. Certainly it was familiar. Then I remembered,
‘You mean you’re . . .’
‘Of course. I don’t know why novelists imagine that as soon as they finish with a character and the book is written and published, that character vanishes or dies. It was fashionable, once, to quote “In dreams begin responsibilities”.’
‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘Everyone quoted that vogue phrase. But what do you expect me to do now you’re in Whanganui?’
‘Nothing at all. It was by chance I saw you. But aren’t you curious to find out what I’ve been doing since you last thought and wrote about me?’
‘Of course I’m curious.’
‘Then let me satisfy your curiosity,’ he said, ‘in a way that I know would suit you.’
I looked questioningly at him.
‘Yes. I observed and knew you, also, and I’ve known that you’ve been longing to write one of those stories where the author meets a narrator who then takes over, and day by day (in a long train journey, or over a season of several days as guest in a house — I admit that in the modern age there are fewer opportunities for prolonged narration — perhaps even during a walk of the Milford Track or a Christmas holiday by the beach — O well, however it may arise), the story is told, the mystery solved, whereupon the author and the narrator part company and most likely neither sees the other again until, just by chance, a similar incident of meeting is repeated, where once again the author, curious to know of events since the last meeting, conducive to storytelling, listens once again — in a train, around a fire, on the sundeck of an evening overlooking the beach — perhaps that is the setting you would choose? There’s no escaping a story, you know . . .’
I agreed. The time was between Christmas and New Year, with Victoria Street a waste of tinsel and unbought Christmas gifts gathering dust and insect spray in the shop windows. I had no train journey in mind, nor had I planned to walk the Milford Track, nor was I cut off by storms, nor had I a bach by the sea where I could sit on the sundeck of an evening, looking out over the bay, and listening to the narrator.
‘Perhaps you’d like to come to my place for the weekend?’ I suggested. ‘I’ve a spare room. And perhaps one evening we can go to the pavilion on the beach at Castlecliff and sit watching the sea while you continue the story? It’s the nearest I have to that train journey across the Steppes or even across the Central Australian Desert or even the fourteen-hour journey between Auckland and Wellington.’
He accepted my invitation. He did know as well as I did, how I had dreamed of writing the kind of story he described, the story with the classic treatment and theme, the set piece, like a dance or movement of music.
There was one difficulty, however. Although I did recall his name, I had no idea of his character and actions. I therefore gave him my address, suggesting that he arrive about half-past five that evening (Friday), and everything would be ready for his stay. I then finished my coffee and hurried to the bus-stop in Ridgway Street just in time to catch a Castlecliff bus on the Alma Road or A route, and half an hour later I was home where my first action was to find a copy of Maniototo and look it up — so that later when he knocked on the door I at least knew something about him.
ANĐEO ZA MOJIM STOLOM
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Official Website for Janet Frame www.janetframe.org.nz
Upgraded and updated at last. Links available to the publisher websites and info pages for all Janet Frame's BOOKS IN PRINT (in English).
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Sunday, July 4, 2021
Saturday, May 22, 2021
GOOSE LAYS GOLDEN EGG
The Goose Bath achieves Premier New Zealand Gold Bestseller accreditation
From the Booksellers New Zealand website: "Books become Premier New Zealand Bestsellers when they achieve outstanding sales within New Zealand. Top-selling New Zealand books are recognised with accreditation to four levels of success...The total sales within New Zealand for each book, across all editions, are verified and, once confirmed, the book becomes an officially accredited Premier New Zealand Bestseller. Only accredited Premier New Zealand Bestsellers can wear the official platinum, gold, silver and bronze seals."
We are especially delighted at this recognition of the strong sales for Janet Frame's second poetry volume, given that Janet Frame's first book of poetry, The Pocket Mirror, has been one of the best selling collections of poetry by a single author in New Zealand history, locally and internationally, but has never been sufficiently acknowledged as such. This and several other of Frame's titles, although they have also sold extremely well within New Zealand, for various reasons are either not officially recognised as bestsellers, or their level of accreditation does not adequately reflect their actual sales history. (This anomaly is due to a chequered publishing history involving multiple publishers including foreign publishers whose sales are not counted in New Zealand, and multiple editions, and the consequent difficulty of collating sales figures.)
Postscript: The Random House New Zealand edition of The Goose Bath was published in hardback and paperback and eventually sold just short of six thousand copies, therefore qualifying for accreditation as a Premier New Zealand Platinum bestseller but the scheme was discontinued shortly afterward.
The Goose Bath was published in Australia by Wilkins Farago. The New Zealand and Australian editions are now out of print. In the UK the entire selection in The Goose Bath has been published by Bloodaxe Books in one volume along with a selection from The Pocket Mirror. This book is entitled Storms Will Tell: Selected Poems by Janet Frame and is available to purchase online.