Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Janet Frame's "Gavin Highly": newyorker.com

5 April 2010 issue

And there's a terrific illustration by Gary Baseman!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Een Andere Zomer

Today's mail has brought the Summer catalogue of DE GEUS, Janet Frame's longtime publisher in the Netherlands.

The catalogue features an advance preview of the Dutch translation of Towards Another Summer, which will be released in July 2010.

Een Andere Zomer was translated by Anneke Bok, who also worked on the Dutch translation of Janet Frame's autobiography, and who remembers enjoying Janet Frame's hospitality during a visit to New Zealand about twenty years ago.


Ralph Sherwood, curator at the Janet Frame House in Oamaru
with "Violet Pansy Proudlock"

VPP - whose initials can also stand for "Very Pampered Pussycat" -
is a frequent visitor to 56 Eden Street,
and in typical feline fashion,
certainly acts as though she owns the place.

The moniker "Violet Pansy Proudlock"
comes from a name Janet Frame invented for one of the characters
in her novel Living in the Maniototo.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Lost Booker's Lost Book

Fans of Janet Frame's magnificent novel Intensive Care (1970) may well be disappointed that this title missed out on nomination for the retrospective awarding of "The Lost Booker" for 1970.

Intensive Care was first published in 1970 by George Braziller USA and in the same year by Doubleday Canada.

UK publication by WH Allen was not until 1971. Of course the publication the previous year would have disqualified Intensive Care for consideration for the 1971 Booker.

New Zealand publication (by AH and AW Reed) was not until 1972 - and again because of prior publication in other territories, this edition would not have qualified for Booker nomination.

Intensive Care has been an enduring work: it has never been out of print since 1970; there has always been an edition available in some world territory or another. But in the UK currently you'd have to buy it off the internet, so I guess that even if it had been brought to the attention of the Booker administration when they had the bright idea to award a 1970 prize, they would not perhaps have considered Intensive Care "easily available" in England where they make these decisions. However there are multiple new copies of the 1994 paperback available on Amazon UK.

So the usual stringent rules for selection and eligibility for the Man Booker don't appear to have applied in the case of the "Lost Booker" which must therefore be regarded as little more than a publicity stunt, albeit a fascinating one.

If the Lost Booker judges ever get to hear of the unfortunate omission of the novel that Janet Frame herself was most proud of, they may well be relieved that they didn't have to choose between Patrick White's The Vivisector and his fellow antipodean Janet Frame's Intensive Care for the 1970 top prize.

Not that this sort of competition is a true test of the worth of a book. Obviously it isn't, if a book of the calibre of Intensive Care, which has been established as a favourite both in academic circles (with countless essays, treatises and dissertations devoted to it) and as a cult science fiction title, can have been left off the list for reconsideration.

Frame's message in Intensive Care is as fresh and timely as ever. Here is a link to an essay by NZ poet and academic Murray Edmond which begins with an exposition on Frame's themes in the novel, which ranges from first World War Britain to post-apocalyptic New Zealand:

Janet Frame's novel Intensive Care (1970) ends in the future after the sub-normal Milly Galbraith has been executed under the powers of the Human Delineation Act, a law of classification which allows for the elimination of all the weak, unproductive and damaged members of society"...

Another highly relevant contemporary issue covered in Intensive Care is the nature of Milly Galbraith's supposed sub-humanity. She has been diagnosed as "oughtistic".

The US paperback edition of Intensive Care is still available from George Braziller and his edition has been exported widely around the world. I have seen this edition for sale recently in some of the better bookshops in Australia and New Zealand.

The third New Zealand edition of Intensive Care was published in 2008 by Random House New Zealand under their VINTAGE imprint, and is part of a double edition with another fine novel Daughter Buffalo (1972).

The Oamaru Library

I paid a visit to the Oamaru Library last week and had the pleasure of donating another couple of recent foreign editions of Janet Frame's work to enhance their "Janet Frame Collection".

This of course was the library that was so influential in Janet Frame's early literary career. Before she had entered high school, she assured us, she had "read every book in the Oamaru library". Well now she has written a few of them too!

The collection is looking great in its handsome cabinet, alongside the Heritage Collection and the shelves devoted to other prominent authors associated with Oamaru. Was there something in the water in Oamaru?

The collection has been catalogued and the details are now available online at:


The Janet Frame Collection
(this is a reference collection including many examples of Janet Frame's works in translated editions; there are also lending copies of Janet Frame's works on the open shelves of the library.)

Health care reform brings great joy

A portrait of kindly Michael Joseph Savage has pride of place over the mantelpiece at Janet Frame's childhood home (56 Eden Street, Oamaru, New Zealand) just as it did when she lived there in the 1930s. The Labour Prime Minister was a hero to Janet Frame's parents, especially for his government's progressive health care policies.

"When the Social Security Act was finally passed, Dad, in a spontaneous dance of delight in which the family joined, removed the [medical] bills from behind the clock and taking the poker from its hook by the stove, lifted the cover and thrust all the bills into the fire."

(From Janet Frame's Autobiography)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fiona Kidman for Oamaru Workshop

Oamaru's Eden Street Trust
which cares for the JANET FRAME HOUSE in Oamaru
is to host its annual workshop next month.

will lead a workshop on Telling Our Stories

on Saturday 17 April 2010
at 10 am
at Waitaki Girls' High School Janet Frame Room
Fee $25

Please Phone Carol Berry (03) 434 8451 to enrol for the workshop

Later in the day the Friends of Janet Frame House

will present:

A Proper High Tea at Burnside

5.30 pm - 7.30 pm

where celebrated NZ authors

will share their thoughts on

The Spirit of Place in Writing

Tickets $25 from the Forrester Gallery

Thames Street Oamaru Phone (03) 433 0853

Friday, March 12, 2010

En engel ved mitt bord

A new Norwegian edition of Janet Frame's autobiography:
an omnibus pocket edition, from FORLAGET OKTOBER

Friday, March 5, 2010

Myrtle's anniversary

Janet and Myrtle at their family home, 56 Eden Street Oamaru

Janet Frame's sister Myrtle Frame died accidentally on the 5th of March 1937.

She drowned in the Oamaru public baths, at the age of 16.

Janet was only 12 years old at the time:

"I began to explore the poetry book, and to my amazement I discovered that many of the poets knew about Myrtle's death and how strange it was without her... 'The Lost Mate' from Sea Drift by Walt Whitman, told everything I was feeling - the two mocking birds, the disappearance of one, the long search by its mate, with all the false alarms and pondered might-have-beens, the anger and regret and the desperate reasoning that enlisted the help of magic, ending in the failure to find what was lost and the letting go of all hope of finding it."

From To the Is-land (Autobiography Volume 1)

Peaks of McLeod

New Zealand composer Jenny McLeod speaks to Eva Radich for Radio New Zealand Concert, about her journey through setting Janet Frame's poems to music for the song cycle Peaks of Cloud commissioned by tenor Keith Lewis:

This is a fascinating conversation touching on the ways in which talented artists can collaborate with other artists working in different fields. Jenny McLeod is frank and articulate about her interactions with Frame's poetry and her experiences in setting it for Keith Lewis's voice and Michael Houstoun's piano playing.

Jenny McLeod's love for Janet Frame's poetry (from the books The Goose Bath and The Pocket Mirror) really shines through this interview. After completing Peaks of Cloud, McLeod went on to compose another two song cycles based on poems by Janet Frame.

The world premiere of Peaks of Cloud takes place in Wellington on the evening of Sunday 7th March 2010 as part of the New Zealand International Arts Festival:

Keith Lewis (tenor)

Michael Houstoun (pianist)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Janet Frame in Virago Modern Classics

Janet Frame has 3 titles so far in Virago Modern Classics:

Faces in the Water - Introduced by Hilary Mantel

Living in the Maniototo - Introduced by Linda Grant

An Angel at My Table - Introduced by Jane Campion

And of course the posthumously published novel Towards Another Summer is also on the Virago fiction list as a new title.

Blogger Verity's Virago Venture has noted the arrival of the new edition of Janet Frame's autobiography to her home library.

The VMC Angel at My Table was first released two years ago (January 2008).

Today in the UK Virago Press has just released a B-Format paperback version of that earlier edition. The new edition also contains all three volumes of Janet Frame's bestselling autobiography, described by Michael Holroyd as "one of the great autobiographies written in the twentieth century". The new edition also contains a very personal introduction written by one of Janet Frame's biggest fans: film director Jane Campion, who memorably transformed Janet Frame's memoir into the highly acclaimed beautiful and poetic movie adaptation of the same name.

In line with the practices of the publishing industry, a new book is first published in hard covers (although that step is not as common these days as it used to be); then after the first flush of sales of the prestige and more expensive edition, it is released in a large format paperback, and then when that edition has been through several reprints, if sales are good enough the publisher releases a smaller and cheaper "mass market" paperback or "pocket" edition, in order to make the title available to a wider audience. Janet Frame's titles, most of which have been almost continually in print somewhere in the world since first publication, have been through many of these cycles!

Book collectors have their work cut out for them, trying to keep up with all the different versions of the one literary work. But the ordinary reader, and students, should I imagine be pleased to see an affordable and easily portable version of this classic autobiography on the market. This is the type of book you find at airport bookstores. (Friends of mine recently travelled through Hong Kong and mentioned seeing the row of Virago Janet Frames on the shelves at an airport bookstall.)

NB: The Virago titles are for sale in the UK and Canada, and in the Commonwealth except for Australia and New Zealand where Janet Frame is published by Random House.