Thursday, March 31, 2011

'A guided tour'

Due out from Auckland University Press in May 2011.

The Frame Function: An Inside-Out Guide to the Novels of Janet Frame


"From Owls do Cry to The Carpathians, the novels of Janet Frame have challenged our understanding of what fiction does. In The Frame Function, Jan Cronin traces the operation of a prescriptive authorial presence within the novels to offer an engaging ‘inside-out’ guide to a great writer’s work. In crafting a portrait of Frame’s compositional processes, Cronin provides new insights into the underlying relationship between prescriptiveness and elusiveness in Frame’s work."

ISBN 978 1 86940 486 4, 228 x 152mm, paperback, 232p, NZ $49.99

Jan Cronin will be appearing at the Auckland Writers Festival in May 2011.

Close rereading

Forthcoming (November 2011) is a study of Janet Frame in the Northcote House Publishers series WRITERS AND THEIR WORK.

"Writers and their Work, launched in 1994 in association with the British Council, won immediate acclaim for its publication of brief but rigorous critical examinations of the works of distinguished writers and schools of writing. The series embraces the best of modern literary theory and criticism, and features studies of many popular late-twentieth-century writers, as well as the canonical figures of literature and important literary genres." ~ Northcote House Publishers.

Apparently the Janet Frame volume written by French Frame scholar Claire Bazin is "a close rereading" of Frame's fiction "from an autobiographical perspective".

I don't assume that the use of the word "autobiographical" rather than "biographical" means that Frame's work will be interpreted from the perspective of Bazin's own autobiography, although given the level of projection onto Frame by certain academics of their own obsessions and neuroses, that wouldn't be too surprising! It certainly happens! No, this probably means that we can expect to engage in a search through Frame's fiction for evidence of certain events and themes of her own life, or should I say, from beliefs about her life.

Of course "close rereadings" can in themselves be "closely reread" and I expect this textbook will provide a feast for analysis in itself by other scholars not so enamoured of catching fragments of the author's life in the amber of their art. Bazin's recent title Janet Frame: The Lagoon and other Stories: Naissance d'une Oeuvre cowritten with younger Parisian scholar Alice Braun provided me with just about the most outrageous example of misrepresentation of one Janet Frame sentence that I have ever seen, at least since CK Stead's distortions of Frame's own words last year in the first volume of his memoir, for example by his butchering of a quote from a Janet Frame letter to make her seem to say the opposite of what she actually intended, if one reads the whole letter in context.

In both cases, a quote from Janet Frame has been selectively edited - by omitting an important part of it - to make it seem to say something that contradicts what Frame actually said.  Here's the sentence I refer to, as Bazin/Braun reproduce it in their 2010 textbook (page 19):

"I tried to kill myself, and was sent to hospital for six weeks [...] I sat on my bed with my newly acquired second hand typewriter, an aged Barlock whose keys performed a roundabout dance before they reached the paper, and typed slowly, with one finger, because I had never used a typewriter before, most of my Lagoon stories.'

The sentence this excerpt is drawn from appears in Frame's early autobiographical essay 'Beginnings'. As it appears above, the quotation seems to act as evidence for the persistent myth - especially rampant currently in France - that Frame wrote her first book of stories while interned in a mental hospital. What else could it be saying? In English, the 'bed' could only be in the 'hospital'. Here's proof!!

But what follows is the actual sentence as Frame wrote it (with the part omitted by Bazin & Braun in bold):

"I tried to kill myself, and was sent to hospital for six weeks and when I came out I found a living-in job as a housemaid in a boarding house for old men and old ladies, and in the evenings, in my small room which was still used as the linen cupboard though it now held my bed and a chest of drawers squeezed in somehow beneath the shelves piled with linen, I sat on my bed with my newly acquired second hand typewriter, an aged Barlock whose keys performed a roundabout dance before they reached the paper, and typed slowly, with one finger, because I had never used a typewriter before, most of my Lagoon stories."

Close rereading... a valuable tool for analysing academic propaganda as well as literature! And a great way to uncover the processes of mythmaking.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oamaru author returns to take writing workshop

The Janet Frame Eden Street Trust is again sponsoring a prominent NZ author to lead a writing workshop in Oamaru.

Fiona Farrell, who grew up in Oamaru, is coming back to her home town to lead the workshop.

The workshop will be held on Saturday the 2nd of April: the morning will be spent at the Janet Frame Room at Waitaki Girls High School and the afternoon at the Janet Frame House at 56 Eden Street.

More information here.

On Friday the 1st April the Janet Frame Eden Street Trust and the Oamaru Library present
"A Literary Hour with Fiona Farrell"
Time: 6 PM


US author May Sarton who was a friend of Janet Frame's, once said:

"Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self."

Janet Frame also had much to say about solitude, for instance in a 1983 radio interview she said this:

"I think a writer needs to lead a solitary life. When I say that, you have to be in isolation to do your work. After you've done your work, well that's another matter!"

POEMS in the Waiting Room

The latest Otago Poems in the Waiting Room brochure has now been distributed to medical waiting rooms, prisons and rest homes around Dunedin city and Otago province. The autumn issue contains a poem by Janet Frame ('A Golden Cat').

Other featured poets include Gary McCormick, Claire Beynon, Michael Harlow, and Frankie McMillan.

The original Poems in the Waiting Room organisation has a website explaining the origins of this medical/arts charity.

The Dunedin initiative was started in 2009 by Dunedin poet Ruth Arnison.
Email: waitingroom poems @

The Year of the French

Here's another study guide being sold in France to help students of the Agrégation prepare for their English literature assessment in 2011, for which Janet Frame's The Lagoon and other stories has been set as a text.

Meanwhile, non-academic readers in France can also read the latest Janet Frame title (her novel TOWARDS ANOTHER SUMMER) in translation. This book published by Joëlle Losfeld is the tenth title of Janet Frame's to be translated into French since the early 1960s.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Clutha River on Film

NZ photographer, environmentalist and publisher Craig Potton's TV documentary featuring the South Island's magnificent Clutha River is to screen again at 7.30 pm tonight on NZ's Prime television.

In 1958 while living in London Janet Frame changed her surname by deed poll to "Clutha" signalling her affection for the Clutha river. Thereafter Janet Frame was known in her private life as "Janet Clutha" (later Dr Clutha) but continued to publish under her birth name.

Fittingly, this Clutha River episode of the series "Rivers" quotes Janet Frame in praise of the river that had so captured her imagination.

The whole series is also available on DVD

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Penguin Janet Frame

In the wake of the exciting press release from Penguin NZ about their 3 book deal with the Janet Frame estate, I was interviewed by Erina O'Donohue of Radio New Zealand National for an item that aired on Morning Report on Wednesday March 23rd. Here's a link to a podcast of the news report which also includes a short reading by Janet Frame herself, from her stunning 1994 performance at a literary festival in Wellington. She reads from her short story 'My cousins who could eat cooked turnips'.

I was also interviewed by Debbie Porteous of the Otago Daily Times about the news of the three book deal with Penguin NZ.

Virago Janet Frame titles in print

Thought it might be time to remind readers in 'the Commonwealth' that there are several fresh paperback editions of Janet Frame's work available from Virago Press, in the UK, Canada and all English speaking territories except Australasia.

There's The Daylight & the Dust which is a comprehensive selection of all Frame's published short stories; her autobiography omnibus An Angel at My Table; two of her most acclaimed and well-loved novels Faces in the Water and Living in the Maniototo; and the posthumous novel Towards Another Summer.

More info can be found on the Virago website and blog.

A note for Kiwis, in the "they're reading our author there" category: recent export sales figures showed that in the past year almost one thousand copies of  Virago's Towards Another Summer were sold in Mauritius alone...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Penguin NZ announces 3 book deal

Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Press Release: Penguin Group NZ

Penguin NZ has acquired the rights to publish the first non-fiction book by Janet Frame for 25 years, as well as two new works of fiction.

For the first time ever, all of Janet Frame’s published short non-fiction will be brought together in a new collected volume. Published essays, reviews and reports will feature alongside speeches and extracts from interviews. The work also includes published letters spanning 50 years of Frame’s life and passages from her personal correspondence.

Pamela Gordon of the Janet Frame Literary Trust says: “The whole effect is to provide a kind of manifesto of one writer's life.

“Our hope is that this collection of non-fiction writings and speeches and interviews will challenge the many inaccuracies about Janet Frame that are disseminated even by apparently reputable sources,” said Gordon.

Penguin will publish the non-fiction collection at the end of 2011, and has acquired the rights also to publish two new fiction titles.

The first fiction work will be a volume of previously uncollected short stories, as well as some unpublished stories. The second work is an adult fable written by Frame in Ibiza during the 1950s. It is the first publication of material written by Frame when she lived on Ibiza, where she had her first profound romantic encounter.

“Penguin is honoured to be publishing these new works now.”
~ Debra Millar, Penguin NZ's General Manager of Publishing

A New Zealand Icon

In 2003, the year before her death, Janet Frame was honoured with an inaugural Icon Award by the New Zealand Arts Foundation.

The Arts Foundation website maintains pages on all the recipients of their awards, including of course Janet Frame.

Italian Owls

A foreign parcel arrived today bearing paperback copies of Gridano i gufi which is the latest Italian edition of Janet Frame's first published novel Owls Do Cry (1957).

This new edition is published by Neri Pozza. Funny it should arrive today, on March the 23rd, which is Frank Sargeson's birthday. Frank was the hospitable older NZ writer who offered Janet Frame a place to live while she wrote the novel in 1955.

«Una storia che fa letteralmente mancare il fiato, raccontata senza un briciolo di reticenza ma con grande sapienza letteraria ed elevato spirito poetico».

~ Corriere della Sera

«È tra la parola e il silenzio, inteso come esperienza suprema del possibile, che si gioca l’esperienza narrativa di Janet Frame».

~ Maurizio Bartocci, Il manifesto

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rare to Medium Rare

If you're interested in first or early edition Janet Frame volumes, there is a rare book auction in Auckland on March 31st at Bethunes at Webbs.

I mentioned the other day that the auction will include a very scarce first edition of The Lagoon, but now I've browsed through the catalogue I see there are a few other Janet Frame titles as well, in good condition with covers. Some have marginalia which is always interesting...

Don't they look pretty!

Janet Frame week on dovegreyreader scribbles

I was so happy to hear last year that prominent UK literary blogger dovegreyreader wanted to feature Janet Frame on her blog. She has an excellent series called "dovegreyreader asks" in which she asks authors to talk about themselves and their work. She wasn't able to ask Janet of course, but I agreed to answer some biographical questions about Janet.

This is an unusual step for me, and (apart from the fact that 2010 was the year from hell anyway) it took me a while to get around to the task. One of my problems of course was the long habit - drilled into me for my whole life - of keeping my mouth shut about my famous aunt. It wasn't just that Janet liked her family and friends to preserve her privacy. She wasn't 'hiding' any dirty secrets (although that doesn't stop some of the academics - not all of them, just the bottom-feeders - from making the search for scandal their highest priority!), Janet Frame just genuinely believed that it is the work that matters, not the life.

But dovegreyreader's Q&A was so nicely worded and provided an opportunity for a positive view of Janet Frame behind the scenes in her dedicated writerly life. I hope Janet's old and new fans enjoy the insights.

Viva dovegreyreader!

Here are some of the links to the Janet Frame week posts. If you aren't already a regular reader of the dovegreyreader scribbles blog, I won't be surprised if you find it an indispensable place to visit from now on. She is such a prolific and sensitive reader, and a wise and entertaining writer.

Here's a perceptive meditation from dovegreyreader on: Mona Minim and the Smell of the Sun.

I answered questions about Janet's writing day and hobbies: March 15th

A short personal sketch: March 14th

What Janet liked to read, and dovegreyreader's reviews of The Lagoon and other Stories, Living in the Maniototo, Owls Do Cry,  and Towards Another Summer: March 17

Friday, March 18, 2011

A book with a heartbeat

Being Human is the new volume in the marvellous series of poetry anthologies from editor Neil Astley of Bloodaxe Books. The first two were Staying Alive and Being Alive.

‘I love Staying Alive and keep going back to it. Being Alive is just as vivid… But this new book feels even more alive – I think it has a heartbeat’ – MERYL STREEP.

This new volume includes a very special poem by Janet Frame: 'The Suicides' which is a poem much-anthologised and much loved for its wisdom and compassion:
let us go in
deep to their despair and their skin and know
they died because words they had spoken
returned always homeless to them.

For Christchurch

Photo by Roger Grauwmeijer
Dunedin 2 March 2011

I recently accepted an invitation to take part in a benefit concert raising funds for quake-ravaged Christchurch. The local Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns came along to start the proceedings with dedicatory prayers; some legends of Dunedin music played; I read some poems by Janet Frame, and poet David Eggleton performed his own poetry plus pieces by James K Baxter and Allen Curnow. Some local artists and writers donated their work to help raise funds. There was also an amazing belly dancing troupe! The feelings of love and support for our near neighbour Christchurch were strong.


RED CROSS 2001 Christchurch Earthquake Appeal


A new work of art from Janet Frame's friend, legendary dancer/choreographer Douglas Wright, is currently playing in the Auckland Festival of Arts.

Douglas talked about the piece for the NZ Herald.

Douglas and Janet shared a deep love and respect for the great classics of literature, as Douglas remembers, Janet referred to as "the deads":

He opens his notebook and quotes Vladimir Nabokov in Speak, Memory, words that beautifully define, for Wright, his kind of dance. "Innermost in man is the spiritual pleasure derivable from the possibilities of outtugging and outrunning gravity, of overcoming or re-enacting the earth's pull."

Obscure references from learned tomes have always littered Wright's thinking, fuelled his creativity.

"Isn't that marvellous," he smiles.

He was reading Janet Frame at age 11, he says, later forging a deep friendship with her, and he uses her words to describe his ongoing choice of reading material. "She called them 'the deads'. Stendahl, Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Proust ..."
rapt plays at the Civic Theatre, Auckland, 16 to 19 March 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Books change lives

March is BOOK MONTH in New Zealand, and this year's theme is "Books change lives".

$5 vouchers are being distributed to encourage citizens to purchase a book that may just change their lives.

Meanwhile, a first edition of THE LAGOON, the book that changed Janet Frame's life, is up for auction:

It's a very rare book, and the sale estimate is $2,500, but of course you never know what it will fetch on the day:

If you can't manage to afford the first edition, there are copies of this title in print:

In New Zealand: Janet Frame Stories and Poems from Random House NZ (Contains The Lagoon and The Pocket Mirror)

In the UK: The Lagoon and Other Stories from Bloomsbury Books (Classic hardback edition and paperback edition are both on sale)

Also the brand new story collection that contains the best stories from The Lagoon, PRIZES aka THE DAYLIGHT AND THE DUST is available for sale all around the world:

In the UK THE DAYLIGHT AND THE DUST - from Virago Press

IN Australia THE DAYLIGHT AND THE DUST  - from Random House Australia

In New Zealand PRIZES from Random House NZ

In the USA PRIZES - from Counterpoint Press

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On an is-land

Another place for sale where Janet Frame used to live! This blog is serving as a specialist real estate agency!

This time, it's the section on Waiheke Island where the author once rented a holiday home. She later used her time on Waiheke to good effect while writing the novel A State of Siege.

Another literary connection with this piece of land is that the old lady who had died in the house before Frame arrived, turned out to have been Frank Sargeson's school teacher. The main character in the novel was also a retired school teacher, so Frank's old school marm may well have contributed to the fictional portrait, such are the patchworking qualities of novelists...

There is no house on the property but it is still priced at over half a million NZ dollars. What a wonderful view though!


Friday, March 4, 2011

A pocketbook from Norway

Norwegian pocketbook edition 2011

Busy times on the international front lately. New contracts have been signed recently with Russian and Romanian publishers, and paperback sublicences have been approved with France and Germany.
The Norwegian publisher has just sent the new pocket book edition of their Towards Another Summer, Mot en ny sommer, first released as a hardback in January 2010.

There have been symposia in France on The Lagoon and other stories, and the scholarly reflections on Towards Another Summer are really getting underway with a couple of papers on it being presented at a conference in Turkey in April.

The Spring 2011 edition of the Commonwealth Essays and Studies journal No 33:2 is to be on the theme of "Janet Frame's short fiction".

 Hardback edition January 2010