Friday, August 31, 2012

Daffodil Day

Friday 31 August 2012 is Daffodil Day in New Zealand.
Since 1990 Daffodil Day has been used to fundraise for the Cancer Society, to promote their work and to raise awareness about cancer.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fresh frames

The latest issue of New Zealand Books is out (Vol 22 No 3, Issue 99, Spring 2012) and it contains a thoughtful and scholarly review of Gorse is Not People by Emeritus Professor Lawrence Jones. He clearly has relished getting to know "this fascinating collection" of stories which are "welcome additions to Frame's oeuvre". Lawrence Jones is of course very familiar with the background of some of the 'once feared lost' stories and is 'gratified' to discover that they have in fact been preserved by Frame. His review has the flavour of an academic introduction; he selects a few stories for closer analysis and in some cases for an exposition of their chequered history. He considers, for example, the first (and last) piece of work that Janet Frame ever showed Frank Sargeson:

Another outstanding early story printed for the first time in the collection is 'An Electric Blanket', the story that Frame in An Angel at My Table reported as having shown to Frank Sargeson when she was staying with him in 1955 and which he condescendingly told her was "quite good of its kind" -- but it is much better than that.

I was particularly interested to read the meaty paragraph in which Prof Jones considers the ramifications for the Eng Lit classroom of the story "A Letter from Mrs John Edward Harroway", which acts as a postmodern coda to one of Frame's best-known stories 'The Bath':
At the same time the speaker's request to the writer "to tell the truth and not invent things" is a naive wish contradicting what Frame herself knew to be true -- that even her most experience-based and/or autobiographical stories inevitably involve invention.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A birthday present to unwrap

Pictured above is  a copy of Janet Frame's typescript of the poem 'How I Began Writing' which was first published in The Goose Bath (2006). Today being Janet Frame's birthday, posting the poem seemed to be a suitable way to celebrate her long and fruitful career searching for "a truthful vocabulary".

Birthday wishes

Today would have been Janet Frame's 88th birthday.
This lovely vase full of flowering currant is on display at the Hocken Library, and the card reads:
Staff at Hocken Collections
take pleasure in commemorating
the birthday of Janet Frame
with one of her favourite flowers.
28 August 1924 - 29 January 2004

Sunday, August 26, 2012

That's the trick.

And wink-quick manual Daniel

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Oh no! There's a typo in the new book! (At least, there is one that we have found...)

It seems to be that no matter how hard you try, and how many people read the manuscript and check the proofs, there'll always be something that lies in wait ready to leap out at the author or editor, only after the book is published...

And so it is. Call it an antidote to hubris, or a zen imperfection.

FYI the mistake that we discovered in Gorse is Not People is in the editorial notes at the back of the book - according to which, Frame published a story in 1965 and wrote it in 1966. Hmmm.

When I (sheepishly) mentioned our silly mistake to the publisher, she said cheerfully that we would be able to fix the error for any paperback edition that might follow the hardback first edition.

Today's news, that Gorse has appeared again on the NZ fiction bestseller list (it's at number 4, in its fourth week on the chart) makes it seem a little more possible that we'll be able to fix the typo for a reprint!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Scan the poster and hear the poet

A new Janet Frame poem poster is about to hit the streets - and I'll let the Phantom Billstickers Press Release tell the story:

Phantom Billstickers and the Janet Frame Literary Trust Present:

Scan the poster and hear the poet

 Rediscover New Zealand’s literary icon on her birthday, August 28th

 To celebrate Janet Frame's birthday, 28 August, Phantom Billstickers will be placing posters featuring her poem "Daniel" throughout New Zealand.

Look for the posters starting on Saturday the 25th of August and scan the QR code with your smart phone to hear Janet Frame reading the poem. Also look for a new book of short stories by Janet Frame, “Gorse is Not People: New and Uncollected Stories” launched on the 15th of August.

Phantom Billstickers loves Janet Frame. Ms. Frame passed away in 2004 long before the era of the smart phone. Now, a new generation of poetry lovers can hear her voice by connecting with new technology. A little bit of magic that. We hope Janet would have liked it.

Phantom Billstickers feels that QR Codes and other dynamic technology is the future of engaging people on the streets.


 You can read about the Phantom Billstickers Poems on Posters project as well at

(Personal note: In her later years Janet Frame was an enthusiastic early adopter of new technologies, and she was also very fond of gadgets, so I feel quite sure that she would have been intrigued by this new trick of changing "from manual to electric"!)

Rhian Gallagher's SHIFT wins NZ Post Award

 Rhian Gallagher's second poetry volume Shift
(pictured is the UK edition published by Enitharmon Press)

Congratulations to Rhian Gallagher whose second collection of poetry Shift has won the 2012 NZ Post Book Award for Poetry.

The award winners were announced at a gala dinner earlier this month. The Otago Daily Times spoke to a "surprised and shocked" Rhian Gallagher about her win.

Rhian Gallagher received the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry in 2008.

Towards another reprint

As if there hadn't been enough good news lately for the Frame estate, Virago Press have just issued another reprint of their paperback edition of Janet Frame's posthumously published novel Towards Another Summer.

The estate's copy of the reprinted edition just arrived in our mailbox today and the imprint page tells the story: Virago Press paperback edition published 2009, reprinted twice in 2010, twice in 2011, and again in 2012.

Virago Press first published a hardback edition of Towards Another Summer in 2008. That edition sold out and was reprinted quite quickly, so the publisher was able to include some of the glowing review comments on the back jacket of the next reprint.

Here are some UK reviews of Towards Another Summer:

'In this deeply personal novel of exile and loneliness, Janet Frame proves the master of nostalgia, beauty, and loss. Frame is, and will remain, divine'

~  Alice Sebold

'The idea of a new novel by Janet Frame is in itself a delight and TOWARDS ANOTHER SUMMER is a joy to read, with all the poise, inventiveness and clarity of her other work'

~ Maggie O'Farrell

'No literary curiosity but a deeply rewarding and beautiful novel'

~ Hilary Mantel, GUARDIAN

'Maybe Frame took pleasure in the thought of a novel appearing after her death, one that touched so closely on her essential nature, and reminded the world of her remarkable artistry'


'As true and as piercing as anything I have read in a very long time'

~ Rachel Cooke, OBSERVER

'A wonderful social comedy... She carries an entire universe inside herself. She presents herself as shy and sensitive but she wants to be the writer with the clip of ice in her heart, which gives her a wonderful vantage point.'

~ Michele Roberts speaking on BBC Radio 3 'Night Waves'

'This is definitely a book that enhances the Frame collection... Frame has an ability to evoke life as it is lived, a powerful way of describing interiority... I was startled by how rarely you read about home sickness in such an eloquent way.'

~ Emily Perkins speaking on BBC Radio 4 'Front Row'

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The journey through the human heart

"Entering the human heart? In the magnificent stories of Janet Frame, we are never out of it."

~ Murray Bramwell, NZ Books Spring 2009

Janet Frame first published her short story 'You are now entering the human heart' in The New Yorker on 29 March 1969 (cover pictured above).

The story was not collected by Frame until 1983 when it became the title story of a volume that she released  first in New Zealand.  (Victoria University Press: Wellington, hardback and paperback, 1983; paperback 1984, 1992, 2005)

Cover image and design by Joanna Margaret Paul.

VUP NZ paperback reprint 1992

Women's Press UK/Commonwealth hardback edition 1984, paperback edition 1984
reprinted 1984, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1994,
(further reprints still to be verified)

French translation (1997)

Dutch translation of the updated volume of Frame's published stories (De Geus 2012)

The English language book title You are now entering the human heart is no longer on the market, having been superseded by a more comprehensive collection of the stories Frame published in her lifetime. The new volume contains all the short stories that were in Human Heart, plus many more.

(The novella Snowman Snowman has been held back for separate publication in the future.)

The updated collection of Janet Frame's published short stories is called Prizes in New Zealand and the USA, and is also known as The Daylight & the Dust in Australia and UK/Canada/Commonwealth.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Arts on Sunday Radio Interview

I spoke to Lynn Freeman of Radio New Zealand National's The Arts on Sunday programme, about the recent release of Gorse is Not People, a new collection of stories by Janet Frame.

(First broadcast Sunday 19 August 2012 at 14.35 pm.)

"I love Janet Frame"

'I love Janet Frame' pencils by Emma Makes:

I first saw these pencils two years ago, and as I said in a blog post at the time, I liked them at first.

I still like them. But their appearance had unfortunately coincided with what I regarded as a very misguided publicity campaign for an opportunistic fan fiction novel about Frame.

The fictional 'Janet' that was being promoted by social networks emanating out from the publisher of that novel, was a fake, and the pencils seemed to be in danger of being tainted by the same sickly sentimentality that was being exploited.

Two years later I am looking forward to hearing how much those Frame fans like the new work written by the real Janet.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

NZ Listener: 'enchanted' by Frame's stories

The first print review is in. And it's a good one:

"Frame's storytelling explodes off the page with the felt intensity that characterises her as a writer."

"It is impossible not to be enchanted by stories like 'Between My Father and the King' and 'The Plum Tree and the Hammock'."

"Is there anyone after Frame who gets into the minds and hearts of children as she does?"

"These stories are sharp, freshly colloquial, funny and poignant."

"Gorse is Not People is a valuable and welcome addition to the Frame canon, reminding us what we already know - how good she was, and how much we need her."

Lydia Wevers, review of Gorse is Not People (Penguin NZ August 2012) in the NZ Listener, 25 August 2012 issue (on sale 21 August).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gorse launch: "this searing yet also consoling bounty"

Gorse is Not People: New & Uncollected Stories by Janet Frame was well and truly launched into the world last night during a convivial gathering at Dunedin's excellent University Book Shop.

Poet and novelist Emma Neale, who is the 2012 Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago, graciously agreed to give the launch speech - and if you follow this link to her blog, you will see what a deeply-considered and beautifully written speech - basically, the first review of the book - she delivered:

Here's an example of an astute observation that Emma (whose academic thesis included a close study of Janet Frame) draws from her reading of these new stories:

At one point when reading this collection, I made a note about how closely Frame must have observed every possible walk of life she had come across — from housewives to spivs to small time crims to waiters. And then I read the story ‘I Do Not Love the Crickets’. This is judiciously placed last by the editors — as it helps us to glean some small part of the enormous psychological investment that must have gone in to each work. Writing about the difficulty in entering the lives of some characters or potential subjects, the narrator says she can’t love them enough to investigate their ‘human essence: that ambrosial stink’. That oxymoronic phrase itself is wonderfully Frameian — the way it weds transcendent and abject. The narrator touches on the intense act of empathy and union with her characters that the sustained drive to write needs.

The staff at the UBS had constructed a magnificent display of the books (beautifully designed by Anna Egan-Reid, the prize-winning designer of companion volume Janet Frame In Her Own Words which was earlier this year named 'Best Non-Illustrated Book' in the 2012 BPANZ Book Design Awards.) Pride of place was reserved for a large and wonderfully-blooming branch of... GORSE! A nice touch, typical of the generosity and thoughtfulness with which UBS staff host their popular book launches.

Bronwyn Wylie-Gibb of the UBS read a message from the publisher, Penguin NZ, and after listening to Emma Neale's inspiring meditation on Janet Frame, I read out a list of acknowledgments and thanks to all those who have been part of the Gorse journey.

It was a lovely experience to be surrounded by friends and family and colleagues, including academics and writers, booksellers, librarians and archivists, to celebrate the emergence of yet another Janet Frame volume, undiminished by its delay.

Our launch was perhaps a little tardy, too. According to the publisher, the official release date for the book was Wednesday the 25th of July, but we knew from experience that it would take a week or more after that for supplies to reach South Island bookshops. And yet, we had been surprised and delighted to see Gorse enter the bestseller lists for that first part-week (ending the 27th of July). And we were even more thrilled that for its first full week in the shops, Gorse took the number 2 spot in the NZ Fiction for Adults bestseller list (Nielsen Bookscan, for the week ending the 4th of August).

It's good to see that there is a hunger for more quality work by Janet Frame, on the part of the readers of New Zealand.

A TV One news camera was present at the launch (no video is archived as yet but there is a report here.)

This week Dunedin's TV Channel 9 also reported on the newsworthy event of a new work by Janet Frame.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Second Place

Janet Frame's brand new book of stories stands at second place this week on the NZ Fiction Bestseller List issued by Nielsen Bookscan.

You won't find tears and sulks here at not winning the Gold Medal, the Silver Medal is a happy shock.

We're surprised and thrilled to see that Gorse is Not People has found a ready audience after only a week on the shelves.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

One of the treasures in the new book

The new book of Janet Frame's stories has been 'released' and is finding its way to bookstores around New Zealand.

Gorse is Not People: New and Uncollected Stories by Janet Frame has been published by Penguin New Zealand (August 2012).

There will be announcements later concerning the timing of international editions.

One of my favourites of the 28 stories in the new book is a very short one that Janet Frame gave the title 'Letter from Mrs John Edward Harroway'. I realised when I first read the manuscript of this story, that the letter-writer is claiming to be the real life inspiration for the main character in one of Janet Frame's best known short stories, 'The Bath'.

'The Bath' was first published in 1965 in Landfall, and first collected in 1983 in You are Now Entering the Human Heart.

I believe that the new story 'works' on its own, even if you do not already know and love the story 'The Bath'. But as a 'postmodern' coda to 'The Bath', it is simply delightful.

We do not know for sure why Janet Frame never published this story. It was written as part of a collection of stories that Frame was working on while she held the Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago in 1965. Frame published several of the stories from the collection separately, but she never published the collection. She was so prolific in 1965 and in 1966 that, as she reported to Professor Horsman at Otago University in May 1966, "I'm ahead of myself in publication of my work." (At the very least, in those two years Frame finished a novel, wrote another, started a third, as well as writing the collection of stories and a book of poems.)