Sunday, October 30, 2011

An editor at her table

Denis Harold and Janet Frame snapped in conversation at a Dunedin cafe (2003)

Denis Harold was a close friend of Janet Frame's and was named by her as an executor of her will. In 1999 she appointed him as one of the four founding trustees of the Janet Frame Literary Trust

Denis was raised in Taranaki and has travelled extensively. He now lives on Dunedin's Otago Peninsula. He has worked as a journalist, English teacher, bookseller, researcher and editor. He has an MA (Distinction) in English. He co-edited two previous volumes for the Frame estate: The Goose Bath (Vintage 2006) and Dear Charles, Dear Janet: Frame and Brasch in Correspondence (Holloway Press 2010).

Notable among Denis Harold's other publications is Maori Prisoners of War in Dunedin 1869 - 1872: Deaths and Burials and Survivors (Hexagon 2000) recently name checked in Witi Ihimaera's new novel The Parihaka Woman.

Denis Harold (nearest the camera) appears on a panel
on the theme of Janet Frame's poetry
chaired by Jan Kemp (second from left)
at Auckland's Going West Literary Festival
in September 2004

Janet Frame Speaks For Herself

Accept no imitations or inventions!

Listen to what Janet Frame had to say for herself!

Presenting Janet Frame's public writings and her speech made "on the record" from nearly 70 years of her life (from ten years old to shortly before her death at the age of 79)

Janet Frame In Her Own Words
Penguin NZ (November 2011)

Contents include:

  • All of her published short non-fiction
  • Nearly 80 pages of direct speech excerpts from 35 of her broadcast and press interviews
  • Letters to the Editor covering 50 years of her life (from 1935 to 1985)
  • Various speech notes
  • Reports on fellowships
  • A conference paper Frame gave at Hawaii
  • Her diary notes on a Toronto writers' festival (where she appeared along with Susan Sontag, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Homero Aridjis, John Wain, Margaret Atwood and others)
  • Speech given at a poetry reading in a prison
  • Speech given on receiving a Massey University Medal
  • Acceptance speech at the Chilean Embassy in Wellington
  • Transcript of a previously unknown oral history recording given while Frame was a NZ delegate at a PEN conference in Sydney
  • Eulogies for well-known writer friends - Baxter, Sargeson, Brasch
  • Reviews - Maurice Gee, William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad etc
  • Memoir
  • Reminiscences and reports on fellowships
  • Excerpts from correspondence on literary and publishing topics
  • Satire, poems and short stories
  • Interviews published in Italy, Sweden, Canada, Australia, USA, UK
  • Comments on her writing process and her reputation
  • Favourite writers
  • etc... etc...
  • Even a cartoon

Publication date: 31 October 2011

Available in shops early November.

It is a beautiful compact jacketed hardback, but there is nothing small about the more than 80,000 words inside the covers, which pack quite a punch.

There will also be an e-book version.

Selected and edited by Frame's executors Denis Harold and Pamela Gordon

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spreading the word

The publicity for Janet Frame In Her Own Words has begun.

Graham Beattie of Beattie's Book Blog kicked off the day by posting the very first preview of the new book on his blog: he was given permission by the publisher to print the short but provocative preface to the book, and also to feature a (hopefully) tantalising excerpt from the collection, in the form of a letter Janet Frame wrote to the editor of the Wanganui Chronicle, protesting against the 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour. The letter includes a poem which finishes with the lines:

So please don't give to me responsibility
give me only the rugby score.

Also today, I spoke to Kathryn Ryan of Radio New Zealand National's Nine to Noon programme. She is an intelligent and thoughtful interviewer and she did a wonderful job I felt (and I tried to do my duty, which is to spread the word about this beautiful book).

The interview was broadcast at 11.30 am on Thursday the 27th October 2011.
Here is the online archive:

Publication date for the book is next Monday the 31st of October.

(Halloween! Trick or Treat!)


Copies should be available in shops in early November.

His-story or her-story?

Whose word do we believe and why?

If we are to believe what we are told by Paul Millar in his biography of Bill Pearson (2010 AUP), when he makes public the long-whispered gossip that Jim Baxter had a sexual liaison with John Money, Millar having been told this by Bill Pearson who in turn was told it by Jim Baxter himself, then the interesting question arises, considering the fact that John Money - when he was asked about the rumour - denied that he ever had sex with Jim Baxter, then what else did John Money lie about?

John Money was of course the person who, along with the heads of the university psychology department where he was teaching, delivered an apparently suicidally-inclined Janet Frame to Dunedin Hospital, where she almost immediately was recorded as a "schizophrenic" - a label which seems very likely Money contributed to, and which was never challenged or properly investigated until many years later.

Money had reason to be worried about the damage to his future career that might result from the exposure of his tangled emotional affair with his friend and student Janet Frame. They were more or less the same age. He was a student himself, merely her tutor; and he was inexpertly experimenting with psychoanalysis on her. He had not yet begun his doctoral studies when he effected his fateful input into Frame's disastrous misdiagnosis.

I would tend to believe the story about Jim Baxter and John Money, given that my father Wilson Gordon was a close friend of Jim Baxter's and John Money's in the same era, and used to say that John had tried to seduce him too, although their friendship did not suffer from Dad's polite refusal; and that in those days John was well known for his eagerness to have casual sex with women as well as men. John was known to be "free and easy" with either sex, Dad said. Apparently even Dad's former fellow conchie Rodney Kennedy - himself openly gay amongst his own circle of friends - warned my father (this was before his marriage to my mother) against a planned weekend trip alone with John, because his "reputation" would suffer. (Those were narrow-minded days.)

Anyway. The question arises, just how reliable is hearsay? Do we trust the word of Paul Millar as he cites Bill Pearson quoting Jim Baxter? Or do we believe John Money when he denies that dalliance? And if we accept that John Money wasn't being honest about his relationship with Jim Baxter, should we not then be more dubious about his assertions concerning Janet Frame's so-called "mental state"?

After the literary historians have finished removing the motes from their historical peepshows, perhaps they might like to start dealing with some of the rotten planks shoring up their grand versions of the past. 

And by that, I mean, of course, wouldn't it be refreshing if certain received theories about Janet Frame were interrogated rather than just blindly accepted because some generally reliable good old boy has sworn it were so?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Another NZ story goes global

News from Janet Frame Literary Trust Award recipients:

Recipient of the 2009 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for fiction, Alison Wong, has picked up many honours for her first novel As the Earth Turns Silver. This historical novel giving insight into the experience of early Chinese New Zealanders won the New Zealand Post Book Awards Fiction prize in 2010 and was also shortlisted for the 2010 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, and it was longlisted for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. As the Earth Turns Silver has already been translated into several languages, and continues to feature on local bestseller lists and has been further distinguished by winning funds under Creative New Zealand's new Translation Grant Scheme for a Spanish translation Cuando la tierra se vuelve de plata - which is published by Ediciones Siruela.

‘Wong excels at exploring how prejudice and acceptance are passed down through generations, while her keen ear for accents invariably entertains. Wong’s prose is lean and muscular, and her chapters short, making this an easily engaging read.’ Daily Mail

‘Robust yet delicately told…Wong has a good story to tell, and releases the information slowly; the narrative is brilliantly plotted…there is an unusual intelligence about this subtle, crafted novel that forces one to stop and absorb the enormity of the smallest gesture.’ The Irish Times

Monday, October 17, 2011

How much 'Jane' is there in Campion's 'Janet'?

Here's a well-researched, intelligent and grown-up view on this topic. How refreshing!

Jane Campion: Authorship and Personal Cinema
by Alistair Fox
Indiana University Press (2011)

Publisher's Blurb:

Alistair Fox explores the dynamics of the creative process involved in cinematic representation in the films of Jane Campion, one of the most highly regarded of contemporary filmmakers. Utilizing a wealth of new material—including interviews with Campion and her sister and personal writings of her mother—Fox traces the connections between the filmmaker’s complex background and the thematic preoccupations of her films, from her earliest short, Peel, to 2009’s Bright Star. He establishes how Campion’s deep investment in family relationships informs her aesthetic strategies, revealed in everything from the handling of shots and lighting, to the complex system of symbolic images repeated from one film to the next.

The chapter dedicated to discussing Jane Campion's adaptation of Janet Frame's autobiography is called:

"How painful it is to have a family member with a problem like that": Authorship as Creative Adaptation in An Angel at My Table.

I can highly recommend Alistair Fox's book for its analysis of the ways in which the Campion film diverges from the text it adapts - Frame's autobiography - in order to play out and project Jane's own preoccupations and personal themes onto Janet's story.

One of the issues Fox identifies is the fact that the father in the Angel movie appears to have been lifted out of somewhere other than Frame's life. Some of the scenes concerning the father and daughter have been fictionalised.

I can testify, having watched the videotape of the Campion movie with Janet Frame at her home, that when she saw scenes like the one where 'Janet' returns to her family home after her father's death, and tries on his boots, she exclaimed "I would never have done something like that!"

Consequently, the influence of Frame's mother Lottie in the movie, has been altered and downplayed.

Alistair Fox notes that Campion's depiction of Janet is consistent with
"a child who has suffered emotional deprivation because of some disturbance in the process of primordial psychic structuring that should have taken place through the infant-mother relationship. Campion appears to have constructed Janet as an embodiment, or emblem, of this condition of narcissistic fragility" (page 98).
Fox goes on to document that in interviews and elsewhere Campion herself has identified strongly with this condition: "We all feel vulnerable and unchosen, unlovable, uncared about in one way or another" she said in her director's commentary to the film. But by going back to Janet Frame's text Fox is able to ascertain that there is not in fact any evidence for this aspect to Frame's childhood:
'There is nothing in Frame's autobiography to suggest that Janet's parents neglected her or left her feeling unloved, nor that she felt a "desperate need for attention". These states of mind appear to be imputed as a result of Jane Campion's projections.'
All this creativity and transformation from the page to the screen is as one would expect of the work of a great artist like Jane Campion. Unfortunately over time the Campion movie has been read by many almost as a documentary or 'biopic' of Janet Frame's life, and has led from the sublime poetry of the film - which on one of its levels is an inspiring study in the struggle of a female artist to survive adversity and to triumph over it - to the absurd ridiculousness of posthumous speculations about Janet Frame's 'mental state' based on the behaviour of the actors in the Campion film.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Peter Olds - an update

News from Janet Frame Literary Trust Award recipients.

In 2005 Peter Olds was the inaugural recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry.

Here are some of his latest publications:

Poetry Reading at Kaka Point (Steele Roberts, 2006)
 In the Dragon Cafe (Kilmog Press, 2007)
Graffiti (Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 2009)
Ballad of the Last Cold Pie (Cold Hub Press, 2010)

As well as keeping busy performing and publishing, Peter Olds has taken part in some artist/poet collaborations. He is pictured below with sculptor Peter Nicholls at their 2009 public installation at the former Tepid Baths in Dunedin.

Peter Olds was the University of Otago Robert Burns Fellow in 1978 and he recently returned to the Otago campus to work with the 2011 Printer in Residence John Denny on the production of a fine hand printed edition of poems featuring images by well-known artist Kathryn Madill. The book is called Skew-Whiff and was recently published by Otakou Press.

Centrefold of Skew-Whiff, based on graffiti observed on Dunedin streets

Photo of Peter Olds: Channel 9

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rhian Gallagher's Shift

News from Janet Frame Literary Trust Award recipients.

Rhian Gallagher was the recipient of the 2008 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for poetry. Auckland University Press (NZ) has recently published her second book of poetry Shift which is also forthcoming from Enitharmon Press (UK).

Shift was launched recently in Dunedin and is already receiving excellent reviews such as this one in the Otago Daily Times and here at the Booksellers NZ blog.

I had the great honour and pleasure to be asked to speak at the launch which was held at the University Book Shop.

Rhian Gallagher speaks at the launch of her new book Shift
at the University Book Shop in Dunedin

Monday, October 10, 2011

Patrick Evans 'Gifted': Cultural Sabotage

In the opinion of the Janet Frame estate, the novel 'Gifted' by Christchurch English lit lecturer Patrick Evans, is an act of cultural sabotage, a deliberate attempt to distort the documented facts of Frame's life and work on the part of an academic in order to promote his own theories. It is not a 'historical novel' because it does not, as a historical novel generally does, adhere to all known historical facts and make reasonable guesses to fill in what has not been documented, to make the history come alive for the reader.

Fair enough for a novelist to write speculative and satirical fiction, as in fact CK Stead did, covering the same era, in All Visitors Ashore. But Stead changed the names. Evans uses "Janet Frame" and "Frank Sargeson" as characters, and the publicity and promotion around his novel has exploited Frame's name and reputation - always a photo of her, rarely of the 'novelist' Evans - and patsy reviews have suggested that there is biographical validity to the novel. There is not. Many crucial facts have been changed or distorted or omitted.

Trustee Denis Harold reviewed the book earlier this year:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A whale of a tale

Yesterday morning's Dominion Post (Wellington, NZ) featured a front page teaser for an inside story about a rare visit of a pod of orcas into Wellington harbour. Above the paper's banner was a picture of a killer whale superimposed with the words:

An orca at our table

Nice to see the old catchphrase an x at y's table (from Janet Frame's An Angel at My Table, adapted for the celebrated movie by Jane Campion) still at use in New Zealand idiom. (See my earlier blog posts 'A catchphrase on my candle' and 'A bro'Town at my table'.)

What made this particular showing of the expression especially noteworthy for me, is that the person who captured the mobile phone footage of the orcas in the harbour, was a close member of Janet Frame's family circle (namely my son Daniel). When the paper came out the next day and we saw the "An orca at our table" I asked Daniel, "Did they know that Janet was your great aunt?" and his answer was No - just a random coincidence.

Janet Frame wrote a delightful poem called 'Daniel' (it has been published in The Goose Bath), that starts:


who was born manual
who longed to be electric
to go everywhere at the flick
of a switch
and finishes:

And wink-quick manual Daniel
became Why-electric.

She could have been prophesying the socially networked mobile phone generation!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Advance Copy

The advance copy has arrived - one of the great pleasures of life!
The smell and the feel of a new book...
It's a small jacketed hardback, beautifully designed in a classic style, a handbook to be dipped into or read from cover to cover.

One month until the publication date of this wonderful book to be released on the first of November:

(Penguin NZ 2011)

Collected short non-fiction.
Essays, Reviews, Reports, Speeches, Eulogies.
Letters to the Editor.
Interview excerpts.

Bound to cause a few tantrums from the predictable quarters.
Sure to be deeply appreciated by old and new fans of Janet Frame's work.
Certain to intrigue anyone interested in New Zealand literature.

Selected and edited by Frame trustees Denis Harold and Pamela Gordon.