Thursday, December 20, 2012

200 years of the brothers Grimm

Two hundred years ago today, the brothers Grimm published their collection of fairy tales. On numerous occasions Janet Frame acknowledged  her debt to the Grimms' Fairy Tales. Here is an excerpt from one of her tributes, 'Tales from Grimm' published in an educational journal in 1975:
I read Grimms’ tales in what privacy I could find with seven in the household and a bedroom and bed with four in it. Some of the stories I’d read before, in school books. ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ was the first story in our first reading book, while the second was the story of the boy swallowed by a fox. How many anxious moments I had, in the primers, when I walked to and from school and was fearful, in a land of sheep, that a fox would spring out and swallow me!
My delight in Grimms’ tales was in finding all the stories, old and new, together, and in tasting again and again the thrilling plunge of each first sentence (‘A certain man had two sons . . . Once upon a time . . .’) then the telling (like opening the eyes after being submerged) ‘It happened that one day . . .’ then halfway through the story the knowing that I couldn’t go back and I was afraid to go on. As far as I remember, the longest story and my favourite was ‘The Blue Light’. Then ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ and the old soldier who unexpectedly chose to marry the eldest; ‘One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes’; ‘Rapunzel’.

I found the book so satisfying, I think now, in the convention of its storytelling, the journeys, meetings, the matter-of-fact descriptions of marvels, the talking animals and trees, and in the way the stories had their heart in a family — brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, rich and poor, whose goodness and wickedness had been found out and described without fear. Any act was possible. Anything could happen. Nothing was forbidden.

~ Janet Frame
(reprinted in Janet Frame in Her Own Words Penguin 2011)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Janet Frame in Prague

Czech actress Tatiana Medvecka
reads poems and prose by Janet Frame
in Czech translation
at Café Fra in Prague, Czech Republic.
Photographs: Ondrej Lipar
Translator Denis Molčanov presents Janet Frame to a Czech literary audience.
13 November 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Zu Gast an der Festtafel der Fantasie

 "A guest at the banquet table of the imagination"
Review of the new German edition of An Angel at My Table
(Volume 2 of Janet Frame's Autobiography)
"Zu Gast an der Festtafel der Fantasie" von Ina Hartwig
Cicero 8.12.2012

New Zealand Pavilion, Frankfurt Book Fair

Monday, December 10, 2012

60th Anniversary of a lifesaving literary prize

The Hubert Church Award for the best Prose by a New Zealander,
awarded to Janet Frame for her first book The Lagoon and Other Stories,
was signed on the 10th of December 1952
(sixty years ago today).
A facsimile of the certificate, issued by P.E.N New Zealand (now the New Zealand Society of Authors or NZSA)  is now on display at Dunedin's newly refurbished Toitū Otago Settlers Museum which opened on the weekend.
2012 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Janet Frame's still-feted first book, The Lagoon and Other Stories, most of which had been written six years earlier. Publication had been delayed for five years during which time Frame had struggled to convince New Zealand medical professionals that her ambition to write was not a mere psychotic delusion.

By December 1952 Frame was in a state of despair, back at Seacliff hospital near Dunedin after being released earlier in the year from an Auckland mental hospital after the publication of The Lagoon.

Frame had been particularly dejected, during her journey south, to read the following anonymous review of The Lagoon in the Christchurch Press:

[This volume is] produced with an elegance and care that the stories themselves scarcely deserve. This sort of thing has been done already by Frank Sargeson, and one wearies of his imitators. Nearly all the sketches are impressions of childhood, with little or no real point or narrative interest, written in a style that consists of simple statements endlessly joined by a chain of ‘ands’. There is much use of the pronoun ‘you’, the dialogue is all run together into long paragraphs, and plenty of New Zealand slang and colloquialisms are thrown in to provide local colour. The fact that Janet Frame remembers her childhood with vivid intensity cannot redeem the style which, up to a point, is suitable for evoking material images of the New Zealand scene, but can convey no emotions other than the simplest and the most sentimental.

Brutal reviews such as this had done nothing to convince Frame or medical authorities that she had the future as a writer that she so longed for. Desperate measures seemed to be called for, and Frame was placed on a waiting list for a lobotomy, with her mother signing the permission against her will. Surgery was scheduled for the 26th December 1952. So the timing of the literary award - signed on the 10th December 1952 - was perhaps one of the most felicitous known to literary history.

The Superintendent of Seacliff Hospital, Dr Geoffrey Blake-Palmer, happened to see this notice in the local newspaper, and cancelled the operation:

It was Frame's deep gratitude for this and the many other prizes and awards that she won in her lifetime, that motivated her to bequeath her ongoing royalties to the charitable trust she founded, the Janet Frame Literary Trust, with the instruction to use any profits from the responsible management of Frame's copyright to give grants and awards to encourage and support other writers. In the 8 years since her death the Trust has awarded almost $100,000 to individual authors and literary organisations.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Diane Brown wins Janet Frame Award

2012 Winner Announced

Dunedin based poet and novelist Diane Brown is to be awarded the 2012 Janet Frame Memorial Award. The biennial award for $3,000 is offered by the NZSA from a bequest generously provided by The Janet Frame Literary Trust to support a mid-career or established author to further their literary career.

Diane will be using the award to take time off from teaching her writing school to assemble and develop a collection of poems with the working title of 'Taking My Mother To The Opera'.

The award was hotly contested by a sizable list of applicants all of whom, according to judging panel convenor Chris Else, merited serious consideration.

Along with fellow judges, Elizabeth Smither and Pamela Gordon, Chris says the panel focussed primarily on the track record of the applicant and the extent to which the award would further their literary career.

Winner: Diane Brown


Riemke Ensing

Siobhan Harvey

Jenny Powell

Pat White

It's been a big year for Janet Frame

Some highlights of 2012:

(1) Janet Frame's poem 'The End' was up in lights on an electronic billboard in Times Square New York as part of a "Kiwi Poets Live in New York" outreach organised by Phantom Billstickers.

Another poem poster 'Daniel' was produced by Phantom to commemorate Frame's August 28 birthday, complete with a QR code link to a recording of Frame reading the poem.

(2) Janet Frame was 'the name on everyone's lips at the Frankfurt Book Fair' - with New Zealand the guest of honour at the 2012 book fair, 'New Zealand's Literary Queen' Janet Frame was the subject of numerous seminars, readings, film showings, book store events, and radio programmes, and a brace of quotes from her work featured in the audiovisual presentation at the New Zealand pavilion.

German publisher CH Beck issued updated hardback editions of the German translations of Owls Do Cry and An Angel at My Table in 2012, combining these with the earlier very successful hardback of Frame's posthumous novel Towards Another Summer into an attractive boxed set of three. The much loved novel Towards Another Summer was also released by book club publisher DTV as a mass market paperback to coincide with the book fair.

Also in Germany, a translation of Janet Frame's work featured in Neuseeland erzählt - an excellent representative anthology of the best of New Zealand writing released by German Publisher Fischer Verlag. And there was an article on Frame in a NZ guide book published by Mana Verlag.

(3) Publication in New Zealand of Gorse is Not People: Unpublished and Uncollected Stories by Janet Frame was welcomed and the book was acclaimed by reviewers as "delightful" and a "valuable and worthy addition" to Frame's oeuvre, and has so far featured on the Nielsen Bookscan NZ Fiction top ten bestseller list for over four months. This endearing collection of stories has also been sold to publishers in the USA and Australia and will be released in those countries in 2013.

(4) The Janet Frame estate delivered to our literary agent Andrew Wylie one last unpublished novel (to our knowledge this is the only remaining complete Frame novel that Frame didn't destroy) and we were thrilled with the eager response from publishers. In the Memorial Room has been sold to Text Publishing for Australia and New Zealand and Counterpoint for the US territories, and will be published in 2013.

(5) A selection of recordings of Janet Frame reading her poems was added to Andrew Motion's highly regarded UK Poetry Archive.

(6) Ongoing translations included: Swedish publisher Modernista published several Janet Frame back list titles. Dutch publisher De Geus was among several around the world who issued e-books of Frame's work. Further Janet Frame translations were released in Turkey and Italy as well as the earlier mentioned Germany and the Netherlands.

(7) Several individual Janet Frame stories were published: 'The Plum Tree and the Hammock' appeared in Zoetrope, 'Between My Father and the King' in the Manchester Review, 'The Painter' in the Sunday Star-Times, and 'My Last Story' was recommended by Etgar Keret in Electric Literature's Recommended Reading.

(8) Negotiations were finalised with UK production company Sweet Talk for a BBC radio adaptation of Janet Frame's autobiography, which has now been recorded and will air from January 2013.

(9) In the UK, Virago reprinted their Virago Modern Classic paperback edition of An Angel at My Table (2010 edition) twice, and Virago's paperback of Towards Another Summer (2009 edition) also had a substantial new reprint.

(10) Sales and negotiations continued regarding translations in numerous territories including: Germany, Italy, Russia, Romania, Poland, Mexico, South Korea and the Czech Republic.

(11) An official Janet Frame Facebook page was recently established.

(12) A quote from a Janet Frame poem appeared on a new public art work named 'The Trestle Leg Series' installed under Auckland's Harbour Bridge, and a large portrait of Janet Frame appears in a new mural in a lane off Dunedin's Octagon.

 (13) The exquisitely designed Janet Frame in Her Own Words (Penguin 2011) won the Hachette New Zealand Award for the Best Non-illustrated Book at the 2012 PANZ Book Design Awards. Janet Frame in Her Own Words was also shortlisted for Best Cover. The designer of the book and the cover was the very talented Anna Egan-Reid.

(14) Dunedin's newly refurbished and renamed Toitū Otago Settlers Museum has been opened to the public. Among the impressive new displays is a wall panel celebrating Janet Frame as one of the prominent authors associated with Dunedin.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Looking ahead to 2013

It has been a busy year for Janet Frame's Estate, and another busy year looms in 2013!

Here are some of the 2013 highlights we know about so far:

First off, in January, the long awaited Korean translation of Janet Frame's autobiography will be published by Sigongsa.

Also in January the BBC will air their two-part radio adaptation of An Angel at My Table.

In April Text Publishing will release the formerly unpublished novel In the Memorial Room (in Australia and New Zealand).

Counterpoint will publish a US edition of the collection of new and uncollected stories that has been such a success this year in New Zealand (Gorse is Not People). The US title will be Between My Father and the King.

Later in 2013 Counterpoint will publish the American edition of In the Memorial Room.

In May, Neri Pozza of Italy will release a new edition of the Italian translation of Faces in the Water.

Also in 2013 we anticipate: a Romanian edition of The Rainbirds; the first Russian translation of Janet Frame's autobiography; and a new Janet Frame title from CH Beck in Germany.

Late in the year Penguin NZ plan to publish the first ever edition of The Mijo Tree, the fable for adults that Janet Frame wrote while she was living in Ibiza.

 The estate also regularly approves a significant number of educational, anthology and quotation permissions both internationally and within New Zealand. These permissions are granted according to clear principles and guidelines outlined personally by Janet Frame herself.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dead famous literary rock star

Here is an excerpt from another great review:

Gorse is Not People is a delightful wander through Frame’s writing, and what startlingly good writing it is, too. Lucid, warm, humorous and  rich in empathy, the stories in this collection show exactly why Frame is akin to a dead famous literary rock star, adored by such live famous literary rock stars as Hilary Mantel and Jonathan Franzen.
Much of Frame’s genius lies in that she was brave enough to write simply. She distilled everything down to its very essence. Frame’s ideas, her absolute understanding of what she was writing about and what was important within a story meant that she didn’t have to lay it on with a trowel or attempt to be clever or literary. Although Frame uses language in unusual and beautiful ways, a legacy of her formidable talent as a poet, these linguistic flourishes are utterly natural, and never feel contrived.
The stories in Gorse is Not People certainly show Frame’s range and mastery of the genre. Most have a timeless quality about them, although some do capture the era in New Zealand when Frame was a child.
However even these stories have this international quality about them, and are reminiscent of the short fiction  of Carson McCullers and Truman Capote, though dare I say, Frame is better and has as keen a take on the southern Gothic as her American counterparts.
Her subject matter is people. Just ordinary people, young, old, damaged, wise and bewildered, all trying to make sense of their world.
There’s a lot of love in this collection.
Perhaps not grand love, but definitely ordinary love. The best kind.
These are stories to be read slowly and savoured by young and old.
Sunday Herald 11 November 2012
(Reviewed by award-winning novelist Kelly Ana Morey)

Bloom is available as an e-book on Kobo

Monday, December 3, 2012

Another instant classic from Janet Frame

With Gorse is Not People Janet Frame has yet again delivered an instant classic: a book that is not only popular with a wide range of readers but a book of an enduring quality that has been highly acclaimed by reviewers.

Gorse sits at Number 2 this week on the Nielsen Bookscan NZ Fiction bestseller list, four months after it first appeared on the top ten. After relinquishing the number one spot some weeks ago, Gorse is still holding its own in the company of historical fiction, crime genre and even illustrated volumes, which gives an indication of the readability of Janet Frame's stories, as well as their deeper and lasting literary value.

The latest accolade for Gorse is Not People is its inclusion in the NZ Listener's 'The 100 Best Books of 2012'.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

New BBC Radio Adaptation

A new BBC radio serial of Janet Frame's autobiography has been in preparation recently.

Adapted by Anita Sullivan and directed by Karen Rose for Sweet Talk Productions, An Angel at My Table will air in two episodes of one hour each. The first broadcast will be on BBC Radio 4 on 13 January 2013.

The production stars Lorraine Ashbourne as the adult Janet Frame.

Hobbit-watchers will be interested to note that Lorraine Ashbourne's husband Andy Serkis is the actor who plays 'Gollum' in Peter Jackson's movie adaptations of JRR Tolkein's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"fabulous writing"

Acclaimed crime fiction writer Vanda Symon reviewed Janet Frame's Gorse is Not People today on Radio NZ National's Afternoons with Jim Mora.

"It's wonderful to have these new stories," Symon said, mentioning the "huge variety" and the "multitude of moods", and Frame's "amazing ability to evoke time and place, and capture emotions really well, and the true character of people."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Etgar Keret recommends Janet Frame

Israeli author Etgar Keret recommends Janet Frame's 'My Last Story' from her debut collection The Lagoon and Other Stories.

Read Etgar Keret's recommendation and the full text of Frame's short story here:

Electric Literature's Recommended Reading Vol 7 No 3

The Lagoon and other stories was first published in 1952 when Janet Frame was languishing misdiagnosed in a mental institution. Frame had written the stories five years earlier but the accepted manuscript had also been languishing - on the corner of the desk of a dissolute publisher. When the book was finally released after that publisher was replaced, the volume won New Zealand's most prestigious literary prize of the time and the resulting publicity alerted a Doctor at the mental institution to the fact that Frame's ambitions to write may not be have been delusional after all. She was narrowly saved from a scheduled lobotomy.

'My Last Story' is available in print in several current editions around the world, both as part of the original text of The Lagoon and also appearing in a selection of the best of Frame's published stories from across her career:

Prizes: The Selected Stories of Janet Frame (Counterpoint Press)

UK/Commonwealth (ex Australasia):
The Daylight and the Dust: Selected Short Stories (Virago Modern Classic)
The Lagoon and Other Stories (Bloomsbury Books)

The Daylight and the Dust: Selected Short Stories  (Random House Australia)

New Zealand:
Prizes: Selected Short Stories (Vintage, Random House NZ)
Janet Frame Stories & Poems: The Lagoon and The Pocket Mirror (Vintage, Random House NZ)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Gorse by any other name...

Gorse is Not People: New and Uncollected Stories is a 'treasure trove' of posthumously published stories by Janet Frame that has won hearts in New Zealand since its publication in August. It has featured for 16 weeks so far, on the Nielsen NZ fiction bestseller chart, and has also attracted glowing reviews such as:

"work of a quality that adds significantly to her oeuvre"
"Frame's skill and magic at work"
"the reader is effortlessly transported"
"fairy tales for adults"

Now this collection will soon be published in the USA under a different name (also taken from one of the stories in the collection):

by Janet Frame
Publisher: Counterpoint USA
Publication date: 14 May 2013
ISBN-13: 9781619021693

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest We Forget

Janet Frame's father George Samuel Frame served in the First World War as a sapper in the New Zealand engineers corps.
"Mum and Dad were married at the Registry Office in Picton three weeks before Dad sailed to the Great War. When Dad returned from the war, he and Mother set up house in Richardson Street, St Kilda, Dunedin, helped by a rehabilitation loan of twenty-five pounds, with which they bought one wooden kerb, one hearth rug, two Morris dining chairs, one duchesse, one oval dining table, one iron bedstead and flock mattress, one kitchen mat, these items being listed on the document of loan with a chilling reminder that while the loan remained unpaid, the King’s representative (the agreement was between ‘His Majesty the King and George Samuel Frame’) had the right to enter the Frame household to inspect and report on the condition of the ‘said furniture and fittings’. The loan was repaid after a few years, and the document of discharge kept by my parents in their most hallowed keeping place – the top right-hand drawer of the King’s duchesse – where were also kept my sister Isabel’s caul, Mother’s wedding ring, which did not fit, her upper false teeth, which also did not fit, Myrtle’s twenty-two-carat gold locket engraved with her name, and Dad’s foreign coins, mostly Egyptian, brought home from the war."
~ Janet Frame, from To the Is-Land (Autobiography Volume 1)
Apparently haunted by the whole issue of "the King's furniture", Janet Frame wrote a brilliant short story based on her real-life experience of the rehabilitation loan received by her father. She called this story 'Between My Father and the King' and it has been published for the first time only this year. It appears in the volume Gorse is Not People: New and Uncollected Stories released in New Zealand in August this year by Penguin Books NZ. (The collection will be published in the USA in early 2013.)
'Between my Father and the King' has been published today by the UK Manchester Review as part of a special Remembrance Day themed issue.
"Janet Frame is one of New Zealand’s greatest writers. Equally famous for her memoirs, poetry and fiction the Manchester Review is delighted to publish her characteristically sidelong, subversive account of her father’s return from what ‘used to be called the ‘Great’ war’. At a time when the centenary of World War I looms large on the UK’s cultural horizon, Frame’s short, fantastical account resists the piety and national feelings stoked up by some more recent commemorations."

You can read Janet Frame's story 'Between My Father and the King' online
Even in 2012 the story 'Between My Father and the King'  has been labelled by the University of Manchester as 'a controversial account of the Great War', so it's easy to see why Frame never submitted the story for publication during her lifetime. Several of the other previously unpublished stories in Gorse is Not People were suppressed or criticised by various literary gatekeepers for what they regarded at the time as 'unsuitable' subject matter. Frame seems to have self-censored some of her stories that were based too closely on people she knew, or that were overly critical of various sacred cows. As Frame said herself: "Posthumous publication is the only form of literary decency left."
Please note that the Manchester Review has mistakenly categorised Frame's story as 'non-fiction' and it's easy to see why they should make that error, given the true life inspiration and the powerful imaginative force behind this small but astonishing piece of writing. Frame herself called it a short story: she listed it on a table of contents that she drew up for a book of new stories and poems that she was planning late in her life. And if you carefully compare the short story with the biographical facts it is based upon, you would be able to isolate several details that Frame has altered in order to create a more satisfying and coherent work of art. Other aspects of the short story, for example the poetic use of repetition, also mark the story out as belonging to a classic short fiction genre.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"unerring in the penetration of characters' motivation and behaviour"

"This collection of Janet Frame's work will further enhance her reputation."
~ New Zealand Herald (20 October 2012)
Review of Gorse is Not People: New and Uncollected Stories by Janet Frame

"This is a collection to spend time over, to savour, and to wonder at the author's ability to tune in so accurately to the life of her times."
"She consistently drew on an imagination and sensibility that illuminated our contemporary lives and minds."
~ Reviewed by Gordon McLauchlan for the NZ Herald Canvas Magazine

A large part of this review is devoted to discussion of the possible trajectory of Frame's posthumous reputation after her "stellar career". McLauchlan himself is reasonably confident, with some hedging, that Frame's literary reputation will not suffer the same 'long slump' as some of her contemporaries. He concludes:

"I would think little doubt surrounds the survivability of Frame's reputation as a writer."

NB: This NZ Herald review is not archived along with other reviews on the Herald's web site, which is a shame because I'm sure that the international Frame fans who mostly read this blog would be quite interested to read this commentary from a local New Zealand perspective. There's a definite air in the review that Frame's career, though remarkable, hangs in some sort of balance, with her work potentially time-sensitive, being "deeply entrenched in the language of her time", and that this particular publication has signalled a "wrap", and a possible move for Frame, or at least "some of her stories" (those that illustrate her "pitch-perfect ear for idiom") "out of fashion".

One of Janet Frame's favourite expressions was "We'll see..." and indeed we will.

Certainly the headline "Final tales wrap up stellar career" was, given this week's news that there is one last Janet Frame novel to come, a little premature.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

By their fruits

A small selection of the recent titles authorised by Janet Frame's estate

A Noble Career

at Bill Noble's Farewell
with UBS staff Bronwyn Wylie-Gibb and Rhian Gallagher
Photograph: David Howard
Bill Noble, long time manager of Dunedin's University Book Shop and one of the great New Zealand booksellers, retired recently and I had the privilege to attend his farewell function last month, at which a large crowd of booksellers, authors and prominent figures from the publishing industry joined with friends, family and UBS staff to celebrate a remarkable career. There were entertaining and informative speeches with many accolades and great affection, and considerable amusement at one of the gifts Bill received - a Kindle concealed inside a hollowed-out book.
Photograph: David Howard
The University Book Shop under Bill's leadership has become one of the very best book stores in New Zealand and hosts many of the local book launches, including the Janet Frame estate's launch in August this year for Gorse is Not People. We wish Bill all the best for the future.

A discerning book shop

Took this snapshot of a bookshop shelf in Dunedin last week - at the Golden Centre Mall Paper Plus, which I have noted before has a superb selection of New Zealand literature titles on sale.

The Janet Frame books extended onto another shelf and also included Janet Frame in her Own Words, Towards Another Summer and the autobiography omnibus as well as an extra stock of the current NZ fiction bestseller Gorse is Not People (Penguin NZ 2012). The bookseller seemed to have every Janet Frame title currently in print in New Zealand (the entire "Janet Frame Collection" from Random House as well as the two new titles from Penguin NZ).

 I hope that any literary-inclined foreign tourists among the visitors that flood into the CBD of Dunedin each summer, will find their way to this shop if they are looking for examples of the best of New Zealand creative writing, old and new and classic.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gorse is Not People #love

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Janet Frame's last novel

First publication will be by Text Publishing in March 2013

Creative Giants of Palmerston North

A website was launched recently to celebrate the many creative individuals who were born at or have lived in the central North Island city of Palmerston North:

The website quite rightly includes Janet Frame as one of the artists who have at one time or another made Palmerston North their home:

The Written Word - Janet Frame

It's a controversial enterprise (as I know to my personal cost), celebrating your tall poppies in New Zealand. Either you have left somebody off the list, or somebody on the list needs to be challenged and/or cut down to size.

I noticed this Twitter exchange, which is a tidy example of both responses:

Here are the writerly creative giants of the manawatu. Where's Sarah Laing?David Geary? Pah.

Sarah Laing
& they forgot James Brown, and he wrote that poem about coming from Palmerston North!
OMG, yes! JAMES BROWN! He's put PN on the map with that poem! + He was on Kim Hill's 'Playing Favourites'. Now that's famous!
Sarah Laing
and Fiona Farrell lived in Palmy for at least 20 years & Janet Frame, I dunno, 2 years?
Gah, Fiona Farrell! Yes! Oh man, I'm going to be filling out a lot of nomination forms.


For the record, Janet Frame did not live in Palmerston North for only "2 years" although this comment is a great example of the way in which some New Zealanders seem to feel they can just make up any old fact about Janet Frame, without checking.
Janet Frame moved from Levin to Shannon (which is near Palmerston North) in 1988, and in 1989 she bought and moved into a flat in Alexander Street, Palmerston North. In 1990 Frame moved into the Dahlia Street house where she lived until November 1995.
A full six years in Palmerston North, and eight if you think Shannon is close enough to count.
In fact if Frame had only lived in 'Palmy' for two years it might still have been a significant enough length of time to have created waves in the local district, given her celebrity. 
Two years were certainly long enough for some people to freeze Janet Frame in time in Frank Sargeson's Takapuna hut for ever! (Frame boarded with Frank Sargeson for less than two years but many dullards can't seem to imagine any life for her outside the heavily mythologised straightjacket of his mischievous portrayal of Janet as "the mad girl in my garden'. It's as if her literary successes before she met Frank, and after she left New Zealand, never happened.)
PS: I would agree that the list of authors associated with Palmerston North could well include more names, for example the poet James Brown who wrote the poem 'I come from Palmerston North'. I'm sure I've seen another poem by James Brown in which he notes that Janet Frame was also a resident of that city. In the poem, as I remember, Frame is almost knocked over by a bicycle.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A private friendship

Cover of The Man on the Horse by James K. Baxter,
University of Otago Press 1967

This book of essays based on addresses given to audiences while the poet was Roberts Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in 1966 and 1967, was:

"Dedicated to Janet Clutha"

Janet Clutha was the pseudonym Janet Frame lived under in order to try to preserve some degree of anonymity despite her literary fame. She had legally changed her birth name of 'Janet Paterson Frame' to 'Nene Janet Paterson Clutha' by deed poll in 1958.

James K. Baxter and Janet Frame were close friends but neither of them 'blabbed' about that friendship. As her name 'Janet Clutha' was not publicly well known in the 1960s, Jim Baxter had shown by his use of Frame's legal name in his dedication, that he was concerned to preserve his friend's privacy.

The elephant in the room


The name on everyone's lips

"New Zealand's Literature Queen Janet Frame: the name on everyone's lips at the Frankfurt Book Fair"



'A State of Siege' by Vincent Ward

Vincent Ward's film adaptation of Janet Frame's novel A State of Siege was done when he was 21 years old and still at art school.

For a short time only the whole film is available to view online at NZONSCREEN.

See Vincent Ward's website for information, images, reviews, interviews, background scenes and other commentary.


Have you discovered Janet Frame?

"She is a giant among prose writers in English. It is impossible to call yourself well-read if you have not yet discovered Janet Frame."

~ Stephanie Dowrick, Sydney Morning Herald

Poetry does sell

Poetry can sell. Who knew? Some people did - certain canny publishers who produce attractive glossy illustrated anthologies on appealing themes, and who repackage gift selections by popular poets.

Here at the Janet Frame estate we did know that poetry sells, because so many of the successful NZ anthologies have included poems by Janet Frame, and because while only two volumes of Janet Frame's poetry have ever been published, they have both been bestsellers, and have been reprinted and republished in multiple editions.

While Gorse is Not People has been having its heady 3 month run at or near the top of the NZ Fiction bestseller chart, I've had an opportunity to observe the calibre of the other "New Zealand fiction" books that swill around or rise then fall or blaze like comets through the top ten list. What has been surprising to note, is that the Nielsen BookScan "NZ Fiction" category currently includes New Zealand poetry volumes and anthologies - even illustrated ones. And poetry books regularly feature on the bestseller chart. In other words, NZ poetry regularly outsells NZ fiction!

Despite some sour grapes and sniping in recent months at the relevance of the NZ Fiction chart, anyone whose book has or has not reached the top ten, will know that it's not an easy achievement.

As a poetry lover, I'm thrilled to see poetry books there on the bestseller charts and doing so well. One week recently when Janet Frame's collection of short stories was number 1 on the list, her poetry was also represented on the same list in the number 10 slot which that week was occupied by Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems. (Week ending 22 September 2012.) Dear Heart is a gorgeous illustrated selection of poems that has been a runaway success with readers. It includes two poems by Janet Frame.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What's Gorse for the Goose

Two of Janet Frame's posthumous bestsellers in New Zealand,
Gorse is Not People (stories) from Penguin Books NZ (2012), and
The Goose Bath (poems) from Random House NZ (Vintage imprint) (2006),
are pictured next to each other this week on a bookstore shelf in Dunedin.
The big news right now in the publishing industry (international and local) of course, has been that of the 'merger' of the book giants Bertelsmann (home of Random House) and Pearson (home of Penguin).
Janet Frame is currently published in New Zealand both by Penguin Books and by Random House, so I have been very interested in all the commentary and also in the lighthearted attempts to rename the new merged mega publisher, and to find it a new logo, for example:

More amusing logo and name suggestions here.

My favourite of the suggested (joke) names has been 'Random Penguin' but I hear that the powers that be have opted for 'Penguin Random House'.

More discussion here and here: "New hope for indies?"


"I've heard it's good"

Was talking to an old friend on the phone, catching up, as you do. Mentioned that the Janet Frame estate had published a collection of new Janet Frame stories this year and my friend said, "Yes, I've heard it's good, looking forward to picking up a copy."

WORD OF MOUTH. In these days of shrinking book review opportunities and near-bankrupt publishers unwilling to spend anything on advertising for literary fiction when they get so much bang for their buck with pushing their schlock titles, word of mouth is what the work of even one of the great authors like Janet Frame must rely on.

If you've read Gorse is Not People and loved it, please tell your friends. These stories were silenced for too long. Don't let the literary gatekeepers suppress Janet Frame for a moment longer.

"Stunning object"

"a lovely thing to behold"

"I must say Penguin Books has done the memory of Janet Frame proud with this publication. It is a beautifully designed, (Anna Egan-Reid), handsome hardback and is a lovely thing to behold."

~ Graham Beattie, Beattie's Book Blog (unofficial home page of the New Zealand book community)

Janet Frame Mural in Dunedin's Octagon

A portrait of Janet Frame features in a new mural painted in a lane off Dunedin's Octagon between the Hoyts Cinema building and the Dunedin Art Gallery complex. The mural was painted as part of the recent Otago Festival of the Arts, and portrays the different cultural strands that are prominent in the Otago region, including references to Maori, Scottish, Chinese and Lebanese heritage. The mural was designed by Daniel Mills and his aim was to "weave together images of industry and culture" and to "reflect the diverse and unique fabric of Dunedin and Otago, migration and integration, camaraderie and tradition, poetry and education, gold dust and newsprint".

Dunedin mural artists Filipa Crofskey and Daniel Mead assisted with the painting of the mural.

Janet Frame was born in Dunedin in 1924 and died there in 2004.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

6 months on the top ten bestseller chart*

Fun with graphs: the first 13 weeks on the top ten

The book of new short stories by Janet Frame is certainly finding favour with book buyers, having featured prominently on the Nielsen BookScan weekly bestseller list from its first publication on the 25th of July this year (making a debut at #7 after only a couple of days on shop shelves).

The other titles that accompany Gorse is Not People on the top spots of this list include vigorously advertised genre fiction titles as well as books that unlike Gorse are sold at discount warehouses, so this success for the Janet Frame volume is really quite astonishing given that there has been such low key promotion for it and a discernible reluctance on the part of some book media gatekeepers to even acknowledge its existence. We're not sure why so many book review pages have not treated the release of this superb collection of new stories as the major literary (and culture history) event that it obviously is. Perhaps they mistakenly believe it to be a back list selection? But it is heartwarming to note that the reviews - when they come in - have almost invariably been rave reviews noting the high quality of the stories, most of which have never been seen before.

Best of all, it must be word of mouth about the freshness, relevance and readability of the stories in Gorse is Not People that is working to make this such a popular NZ fiction title.

UPDATE (2013):

Gorse is Not People gained a place on the top ten NZ Fiction bestsellers list for the whole of 2012.

* It spent over 6 months on the Nielsen top ten and still makes intermittent appearances on the chart.

Janet Frame books from Bill Brown's estate

Collectors of Janet Frame first editions and association copies may be interested to hear that a selection of signed and inscribed Frame volumes has been acquired from the estate of her close friend Bill Brown by an Australian bookseller.

Visit the Badger Books Australia website to download their September 2012 catalogue which lists the books and in most cases also provides images of the front covers and the inscriptions.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Well behaved women rarely make history"

Revised edition, 2012
Publisher's Blurb:
The definitive New Zealand’s Top 100 History-Makers, which profiles the people who have shaped New Zealand, is staggering in its scope.

This updated edition of the acclaimed 2005 book contains profiles of the leading 100 people who have shaped New Zealand. Those profiled range from politicians and inventers to musicians and sports stars.

New Zealand’s icons are all there. But so, too, are a huge variety of other influential figures – bungy-jumping inventor A J Hackett, John Clarke of Fred Dagg fame, Maori leader Whina Cooper, activist John Minto, film-maker Peter Jackson, musician Dave Dobbyn.

The early years of New Zealand’s history are well covered, through the stories of such people as Hone Heke, Samuel Marsden, Te Rauparaha and George Grey. But more recent achievers like Neil and Tim Finn, Fred Hollows, Marie Clay and Russell Crowe are included as well.

New Zealand’s Top 100 History-Makers is brilliantly illustrated and outstandingly researched. It will be fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in the people who have made New Zealand the country it is, as well as an essential learning resource.

Joseph Romanos has been a journalist and an author since 1975, focusing mainly, but not exclusively, on sports-writing.

He has written more than 40 books, many of an historical nature. He was a feature writer and columnist for the New Zealand Listener magazine 1989-2006 and contributes columns to several New Zealand daily newspapers. These days he is editor of The Wellingtonian and the Dominion-Post Metro team’s chief reporter.

He was one of the panellists and researchers for the popular television series New Zealand’s Top 100 History-Makers.

Janet Frame, New Zealand icon and one of the Top 100 History-Makers

Monday, October 15, 2012

Culture shock

A Kiwi tourist in the USA is startled - and thrilled - to discover that Janet Frame is quite well known overseas after all.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

These stories are all readable!

A newbie recommends Janet Frame's stories
There's a terrific review of Janet Frame's Gorse is Not People in The Timaru Courier (4 October 2012).

The review is by Andrew Tait, who starts by admitting that he has "never read anything by Janet Frame before."
"While this means I cannot draw comparisons, the advantage is that I can provide a recommendation for other newbies. And these stories certainly deserve recommendation." 
As with many New Zealanders who have been influenced by an unfortunately widespread negative indoctrination concerning their tallest literary poppy, Tait had been fearful that the Janet Frame stories "would be too literary, or too experimental and that I would struggle to keep track of what was going on."
But, as with almost any general reader who actually opens a Janet Frame book to see for themselves instead of listening to the academic and industry gatekeepers who have insisted that Frame is too "difficult", Tait discovered that "while there are many layers and levels to the stories, they all had a clear narrative that was enjoyable for itself." 
"Frame is a masterful short story writer. Her stories are short, crisp and distinct. The narrative draws you on from page to page."
"for Frame, and perhaps for all of us if we are honest, life is a hard thing... Even the simple tale of a retirement gift contains a bitterness and savagery I had not expected.
This is, I suppose, what makes Frame a cut above ordinary writers."