Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Fictional Framework

Today's Guardian contains an article by Geoffrey Moorhouse about his experience of finding himself and his family fictionalised in Janet Frame's posthumously published novel Towards Another Summer. His quite reasonable opinion is that the Thirkettle family (based on the Moorhouse family) are "simply included as a context, as an amiable family who are for the moment propping [Grace Cleave, the novel's protagonist] up", and that they were merely being used as a backdrop for the wider preoccupations of the novelist:
"Frame was reworking a theme she turned to time and again, of the Outsider struggling to find a way in."
I heartily agree that of course the author's observations of the real family were only a leaping-off point for her rich imagination. Unfortunately Moorhouse does not seem to afford Janet Frame the luxury of also having fictionally shaped and exaggerated her own character Grace Cleave. Moorhouse quotes his former wife as saying of "Frame/Cleave": "I wish I'd realised how desperate she felt, but how were we to know?"

Alas they allow Frame's character to be trapped by the biographical fallacy whilst also ensuring their own immunity to it.

Of course there is no one-to-one correspondence between the Moorhouses and the Thirkettles. (How could there be? Frame wasn't a mind reader!) But neither is there a one-to-one correspondence between Grace Cleave and her creator Janet Frame, who has in this novel, as in her other fiction, carefully fashioned her material and all of her characters in order to better serve her literary goals.

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