Friday, January 28, 2011

A Yellow Flower for Janet

In the late 1960s in Manhattan, where Janet Frame was living at the time, celebrity photographer Henry Grossman photographed the famous New Zealand author for a Time Magazine review of her new novel Yellow Flowers in the Antipodean Room (also known as The Rainbirds). The only copy I have of the photograph is this image taken from a blurry photocopy of the review page, but what a brilliant portrait of Janet it is. And it looks as though she is flourishing a yellow dahlia. That's the Janet I knew: playful, witty, ebullient, engaged, alive. Some great photographers photographed Janet Frame and highlighted many aspects of her personality - the genius of this photo is that it captures her optimistic cheerful nature, and yet - there's the shadow too, although it is not overemphasised, as some people do; here, the darkness takes its place as part of an inspired and brilliant portrait.

Towards another summer in France

French publisher Joëlle Losfeld (now with leading French publishing house Éditions Gallimard) has revealed today the cover for Vers l'autre été - the French translation of Janet Frame's 12th published novel Towards Another Summer.

The French translation is by Marie-Hélène Dumas

Release date: 10 March 2011
160 pages

22 €
140 x 205 mm
ISBN : 9782070787883

I love this design so much. It's stunning. And what a fitting tribute to the francophile Janet Frame for this cover to be unveiled in time to commemorate her anniversary tomorrow. (Janet died 7 years ago, on the 29th January 2004).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Joy Cowley's Janet Frame Memorial Lecture

Joy Cowley

6pm Thursday 3rd March 2011, Marae, Te Papa, Wellington

PRESS RELEASE: Held annually by the New Zealand Society of Authors, this lecture is delivered by the current President of Honour and is intended to provide an overview of the “state of the nation” for literature and writing in New Zealand, such that the reading public may have a greater understanding of what it means to be a writer in New Zealand. This year’s President of Honour is Joy Cowley; the prolific, widely-published and much-celebrated writer for children who has enjoyed considerable commercial and critical success both at home and overseas. Joy received the Distinguished Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit for services to children’s literature in 2005. She is also the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Massey University, an OBE for services to children’s literature, a Commonwealth Medal and was the recipient of the 2010 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement - Fiction. As part of her lecture, Joy Cowley will address whether children’s books and writers are now considered the equals of “grown up” writing and books. “In the 1950s, New Zealand children’s literature struggled to emerge from a poverty stricken background of imported books. Sixty years later, New Zealand books for young people, dominate the publishing industry and are in demand overseas. How did this happen? The 2011 Janet Frame Memorial Lecture will look at the influences that have brought home-produced children’s literature into the global spotlight.”

This lecture launches a month-long series of celebrations for New Zealand authors, illustrators and books in Wellington. It will take place on Thursday 3rd March 2011, at 6pm on the Marae, Te Papa, Wellington

This event is open to the public and will appeal to teachers, librarians and book-lovers everywhere – but especially those grown-up children who were first introduced to books through Joy Cowley’s writing.

Postscript: Here is a link to a podcast of Joy Cowley's Janet Frame lecture archived on Radio New Zealand.

Other links:

Monday, January 24, 2011

More praise for DEM NEUEN SOMMER

The German edition of Janet Frame's posthumous novel Towards Another Summer has received much positive attention.

Prominent writer Eva Menasse praises Dem neuen Sommer entgegen in DIE WELT (published 15.01.2011) - a beautiful, poetic and thoughtful review.

The German translation has also found favour with author Melinda Nadj Abonji who won the last Deutsche Buchpreis (the German Booker). You can listen here:

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Meisterwerk literarischer Innenschau"

You can read and listen to the German national radio
Deutschlandradio Kultur review
(broadcast 20.01.2011)
(the German translation of Janet Frame's
Towards Another Summer)
at this link:

Janet Frame
German translation by Karen Nölle
ISBN 978-3-406-60520-8
Published 22.09.2010
19,95 €

Friday, January 14, 2011

Autism Scams

Yet another autism scam is currently in the news. It's the autism/MMR vaccine scam. Some news commentators are reporting this as a "vaccine scam", but of course it is also one another example in a long tradition of autism scams, where those peddling a false science, a fraudulent science, some pie-in-the-sky "fix-it", and/or a pseudo-science, play on the hopes and fears of those who have autism and on their families, loved ones, and those who support them, and others they encounter in their lives, and mislead them for various reasons, maybe for profit, maybe just to build their own career and to gain some of the publicity for themselves.
I place the pseudo-scientific fringe activity of diagnosing celebrities as "autistic", firmly amongst the scams. The celebrities who are so sanctified by the labelling with an autism spectrum disorder, are usually done so by exercising an appeal to the vaguest of stereotypes both about autism itself, characterising it as merely a set of quirky and geeky personality characteristics that almost anybody who is slightly 'different" can identify with; and also by sketching a cartoon caricature of the persona of the celebrity: a checklist of incomplete and unreliable information gathered often enough by watching films the actor appeared in, and mistaking the fictional character they play with the actor themself, or reading and believing the garbage peddled by gossip rags, or by imagining that dramatic Hollywood biopics might present a diagnosable portrait of a historical figure). The fullness and the complexity both of the celebrity and of the realities of life with an autism spectrum disorder are glossed over. Counter evidence is ignored or actively, and often with hostility, challenged and denied.
How dies this aggressive co-opting and redefining of the targeted celebrity help anyone with a real autism spectrum disorder? How does it increase funding for teacher aids in schools? How does it help parents to receive relief help at home? How does it educate a community in awareness and acceptance of people with autism? If all people with autism are successful, brilliant, world-famous, and independent original thinkers, unafraid to swim upstream against the current, then why should anyone else care about them and their families?

Link to David Cohen article 'Autistic Licence' in the NZ Listener.

Link to article about stereotypes of the autism spectrum (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 2009)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Janet's Rose

"We are not wounded by
a strange poisonous thorn
but by one
that belongs to us,
grows from us,
its point in our heart and centre."

~ Janet Frame (From 'Nails as a Rose' in The Goose Bath)

The rose in the snapshot above was grown
by artist Robin Swanney-Macpherson,
from a cutting given to her by Janet Frame
when she lived at St Clair, Dunedin.
There was a beautiful garden on the property,
and Robin helped Janet to maintain it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Her own way

"That year I discovered the word Island which in spite of all teaching I insisted on calling Is-Land.

In our silent reading class at school, when we chose one of the Whitcombe's school readers, those thin, fawn-covered books with crude drawings on the cover and speckled pages, I found a story, To the island, an adventure story that impressed me so much I talked about it at home.

‘I read a story, To the Is-Land, about some children going to an Is-Land.'

‘It’s I-Land,’ Myrtle corrected.

‘It’s not,’ I said. ‘It’s Is-Land. It says,’ I spelled the letters, ‘I-s-l-a-n-d.'

‘It’s a silent letter,’ Myrtle said. ‘Like knee.’

In the end, reluctantly, I had to accept the ruling, although within myself I still thought of it as the Is-Land."

~ Janet Frame, from To the Is-Land (1982)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Poem of the Week

(Phantom Billstickers Poem of the Week, January 1st 2011)

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Honouring humble beginnings

Here's a fascinating and attractive new book featuring many grand houses of Southern New Zealand.

It's full of useful information and interesting anecdotes. I know many of these houses, either because I've visited them or driven past them, or I have read about them. But one delightful and perhaps surprising addition to the fold is the house Janet Frame grew up in:

56 Eden Street, Oamaru

This "humble railwayman's bungalow" is given the same loving attention in research and description - and illustration - as any of the fine mansions featured on the other pages.

I know that many of the visitors to the Janet Frame House (which is open to the public every day in summer between 2pm and 4pm) comment that it is so refreshing to visit a carefully presented historic place that was a home for a working class family. The vast majority of heritage venues of course were built for moneyed and influential families. Several of the other houses have connections to Janet Frame's wealthy friend Charles Brasch and his family.

Illustrious visitors to 56 Eden Street have included New Zealand's Prime Minister (Helen Clark, in 2003) and the Governor-General (Dame Silvia Cartwright visited in 2004).

I sometimes wonder what Janet Frame's mother would have thought if she had heard that the Prime Minister and the Governor-General had taken tea in her dining room!

Otago & Southland Heritage Houses
drawings by Rodney Wells
text by Tessa Ward

The Caxton Press, Christchurch NZ

ISBN 978-1-877303-19-7

More information: Nationwide Books