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.)

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