Friday, September 21, 2012

Number One Bestseller

After eight weeks on the Nielsen Weekly Bestsellers List, Janet Frame's Gorse is Not People has at last hit number one on the top ten NZ Fiction for Adults chart.

"Fairy tales for adults" ~ NZ Listener

"work of a quality that adds significantly to her oeuvre" ~ Otago Daily Times

"this book puts you back in touch with Frame the writer whose genius you might have taken for granted" ~ Christchurch Press

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gorse warmly endorsed

Lawrence Jones has written a superb review of Gorse is Not People for the ODT (Saturday 15 September 2012). He considers the structure, purpose and background of this new volume, and puts it in the context of the other posthumous publishing that has emerged since Janet Frame's death. Jones says of the stories in this volume of new and uncollected stories:

'Uniting them all are Frame's unique personal vision with its combination of humour, sharp irony, compassion, and a sad acceptance that "They always die" (the ending of "The Gravy Boat"), and the wonderfully imaginative language with which she presents that vision.'

'work of a quality that adds significantly to her oeuvre'

'further establishes her place along with Katherine Mansfield and Frank Sargeson with New Zealand's greatest writers of short fiction.'

The only form of literary decency left, she said | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

'Janet Frame's writing is timeless'

"the loss to previous generations of readers is entirely the gain of the contemporary reader"
"Janet Frame's writing is timeless. Even as the reader is effortlessly transported by Frame's lyrical prose, the themes she explores, such as ignorance, compassion, greed, envy, sorrow and grief, cover the full gamut of human emotions."

Review of Gorse is Not People: New & Uncollected Stories
~ Peta Stavelli, NZ Motorhomes, Caravans & Destinations (October 2012)


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ulrike Kriener liest Janet Frame

Click on the following link to hear a podcast of:

A reading from Janet Frame by Ulrike Kriener

The reading by Ulrike Kriener is taken from DEM NEUEN SOMMER ENTGEGEN the German edition of Towards Another Summer (translated by Karen Noelle and published by CH Beck).

Broadcast on German radio station Bayerischer Rundfunk on 16 Sepember 2012 to celebrate the status of New Zealand as guest of honour at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair.

Other readings in the same series are from works by Janet Frame's fellow New Zealanders: Keri Hulme, Paula Morris, Robert Sullivan, broadcast every Sunday.

The works of these four Kiwi authors will also be featured in "Afterwork Readings" for four weeks in a row on Tuesday evenings, at the Munich Literaturhaus, starting with Ulrike Kliener reading Janet Frame tonight (18 September 2012) at 6.30 pm:


Cinema Storytelling from New Zealand

"Außerdem haben Klassiker wie Jane Campions eindringliche Filmbiografie »EIN ENGEL AN MEINER TAFEL« (1990) keinerlei Staub angesetzt. Das hier nachgezeichnete Leben der neuseeländischen Autorin Janet Frame, vom Kind bis hin zur jungen Frau, die ihre extreme Schüchternheit mit brutaler Elektroschock-Behandlung büßen musste, ist ein großartiges Porträt einer berührenden Persönlichkeit inmitten einer bornierten Gesellschaft."
The NZ Film Festival Retrospective "Cinema Storytelling from New Zealand" opened in Berlin on the 25th of August with a screening of Ein Engel an Meiner Tafel (adapted from the autobiography of Janet Frame).
Other screenings of An Angel at My Table:
Munich 18 September
Other New Zealand films in the festival include Boy, In My Father's Den, Once Were Warriors, Heavenly Creatures, Whale Rider.

Monday, September 17, 2012

From the other end of the world

Ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair, at which New Zealand is the 2012 "guest of honour", German Publisher Fischer Verlag has produced Neuseeland erzählt - a handy anthology of New Zealand poetry, fiction and non-fiction, also featuring some 'external' commentary about New Zealand. The selection includes a chapter from To the Is-Land, Janet Frame's first volume of autobiography. Some of the other authors represented are: Allen Curnow, Keri Hulme, Maurice Gee, Patricia Grace, James K. Baxter, Charlotte Grimshaw, Hone Tuwhare, Ngaio Marsh, Lloyd Jones, Lauris Edmond, Frank Sargeson, Katherine Mansfield, Bill Manhire. It seems a well put together and worthy taster of some of the best of tried and tested New Zealand writing.

Of course a good anthology should never be regarded as an end in itself - it should stimulate the appetite to look to the complete works of those authors represented and also encourage exploration beyond the recognised canon.

I came across an interesting commentary on the New Zealand books that have been made available in German translation so far this year, discussing the range available, of cook books, photography and travel books, crime fiction and literary fiction (of varying quality and subject matter) as well as the 'greats' - with Janet Frame and Keri Hulme both recommended for (re-)reading.

Fortunately there are some fresh new editions of three old favourite Janet Frame titles, published this year by CH Beck, also available as a boxed set: Drei Werke.

Ein Engel an meiner Tafel (An Angel at My Table)

Wenn Eulen schrein (Owls Do Cry)
(also avalable as an eBook)

Dem neuen Sommer entgegen (Towards Another Summer)


Thursday, September 13, 2012

if you prefer the eBook version...

(Penguin NZ 2011)
(Penguin NZ 2012)
Two beautiful Janet Frame jacketed hardbacks, exquisitely designed by talented young designer Anna Egan-Reid.
Also available now in eBook format:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Gorse flourishing

Gorse is Not People continues to feature on the NZ bestseller lists.

Seven weeks after publication Gorse is at #2 on the Nielsen Bookscan NZ Fiction for Adults Weekly Bestsellers list.

It's a #3 on The NZ Fiction bestsellers.

It's at #13 on the Indie Top 20 of all books sold in (participating) independent NZ bookstores.

"Open this book anywhere and you will find yourself soon absorbed, enriched and agreeing:
       'Yes, that is true. That is really how it was or is, but I had not thought about life like this before.'
   That is Frame's skill and magic at work."

~ Jo Keppel, Greymouth Evening Star

"Gorse is not People is a treasure trove for Janet's many devotees".. "this is quality writing".

~ Lynn Freeman, Arts on Sunday, Radio New Zealand National

"Fairy tales for adults" ... "it is impossible not to be enchanted"

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

~ Lydia Wevers, NZ Listener

Listed in "Sunday Star-Times Top NZ reads of 2012"

"sense of humour, ingenious word play and a fascinating blend of perspectives"

"hilarious"..."hugely appealing"

"this book puts you back in touch with Frame the writer, whose genius you might have taken for granted"

~ Philip Matthews, Christchurch Press

"Who else could describe geraniums as 'the dry, sturdy, dusty flowers with the red stony-velvet smell'?"

~ Australian Women's Weekly (NZ Edition)

"she shifts from dense, metaphysical contemplations, to stark social realism, or children’s fantasy — and all without any sense of her moving out of her natural register."

"soaringly, gorgeously lyrical"

"Although her writing catches these fleeting, gleaming surfaces, it always goes under them, to mine what the perception of these small things reveal about pressing social and deeply metaphysical subjects. Her writing rings with poetry, but it also has an intense awareness of social inequality, and the hypocrisies we all commit, even those who also supposedly have a capacity for empathy. History and economics thrum through the stories, even when their focus seems to be trained on domestic and psychological interiors."

"Frame doesn’t let anyone off: not even herself. It’s this utter refusal to compromise that makes her exceptional."

~ Emma Neale (Launch Speech)

"fascinating collection" ... "welcome additions to Frame's oeuvre"

~ Lawrence Jones, NZ Books


Monday, September 10, 2012

"fairy tales for adults" put you "back in touch with Frame the writer"

Philip Matthews reviewed Gorse is Not People for the Fairfax magazine Your Weekend (Christchurch Press 8 September 2012) p33:

"While Night at the Opera, Gorse is not People and the longest story, The Big Money are the obvious stand-outs, the child's point of view in stories like Gavin Highly is hugely appealing."

"apart from the historical interest and biographical gossip, this book puts you back in touch with Frame the writer, whose genius you might have taken for granted. And she was not just an original writer. She was also, and this is much rarer, an original thinker."

"beside the human tragedy, these [the mental hospital stories] and other stories also have Frame's sense of humour, ingenious word play and a fascinating blend of perspectives."

The Lydia Wevers review of Gorse for the New Zealand Listener (25 August 2012) is now archived online (click link to read the review online).

Some of my favourite snippets from that review are:

'fairy tales for adults'

"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."


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wikipedia sucks #3786289267287292827262724251

>>Award-winning American author Phillip Roth has complained over being referred to as not "a credible source" when he tried to change a Wikipedia page about one of his own novels. Roth, 79, wanted an assertion about the origins of his novel "The Human Stain" removed, but was told by the collaboratively edited internet encyclopedia that additional sources would be needed to make the change.

Ultimately, the author resorted to writing an open letter to Wikipedia, which was published in The New Yorker.

“Dear Wikipedia. I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel The Human Stain. The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed,” The Telegraph quoted Roth, as writing.

“This item entered Wikipedia not from the world of truthfulness but from the babble of literary gossip – there is no truth in it at all,” the letter added.

In his 2,600-word letter, Roth then recounted how, when he tried to get the entry changed, he was told by an "English Wikipedia Administrator" in a letter "that I, Roth, was not a credible source".

He said the administrator told him: "I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work, but we require secondary sources.”

The Wikipedia page for the book has now been amended to include a lengthy extract from Roth's open letter, it said.<< [Hindustan Times]

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that several years ago I had a run in with Wikipedia, when I briefly tried to tangle with some bullying trolls and their sock puppets that had hijacked the Janet Frame article.

I was accused of "Conflict of Interest" and yet I knew for a fact that two of the anonymous editors had greater conflicts of interest than I did. They were just being deceitful about theirs.

I gathered IP evidence for sock puppetry but Wikipedia admins were spectacularly unhelpful, as was the relevant Department in the University that the sock puppet edits were traced to.

The Janet Frame article is still appallingly biased and inaccurate, patronising and incomplete. For instance you are told of exploitative and despicable fan fiction about Frame that masquerades as authoritative but you are not given details about recent Frame publications.

Her actual writing is not of much interest it seems, in fact one of the key editors has gone out of his way to downplay the reception of her work. The article has a prurient focus on relationship and medical history and has glaring omissions from her life story.  The slant is sexist, and the comments history clearly shows a deep personal hostility towards the Frame estate. The article and the discussions have regularly featured libellous statements.

I was personally harassed and hounded away from the site in very short order. I didn't linger (even though some troll or other tried to claim that I did). The only rational response if you encounter trolls is to leave quickly without looking back. That's my policy anyway. Life's too short to waste time arguing with someone who is too cowardly to reveal themselves.

So the Janet Frame article is rotten to the core, and it has the stench of the discourse disseminated by Frame's known detractors to it. Of course they have a "conflict of interest" as much as her fans are suspected to have, but they don't have the ethics to admit it.

So, no fans allowed. No success allowed. No agency, no personal ambition and achievement. All this is apparently a whitewash.

It is of no interest that Frame first published poetry while at primary school, and belonged to debating teams. It is of interest that two gossip columnists complained that her posthumous poetry volume won a prize.

Fortunately it seems Philip Roth has the clout to have achieved some sort of satisfaction. As a live author, he could sue, I guess. Dead authors have no such luck. It's open season on them. Just make anything up, even a novel, and Wikipedia will treat that source as more valid than your own work.

I can see that the more people that take an interest in, and edit an article, the more genuinely authoritative it might become because of discussion in good faith. Perhaps there could be an index of reliability based on the number of editors making substantial honest edits and justifying them. The Janet Frame article would fail badly on that score. (There are plenty of drive-by tweaks to  punctuation or making minor adjustments to fit global templates, so it might look like there are plenty of editors, but there are not.)

And what does Wikipedia do when there is bad faith? They don't seem to care, as long as the troll that has commandeered an article seems to follow their spoken and unspoken 'rules'.

It's a failed model, and it fails because Wikipedia admins don't seem to be willing or able to weed out the psychopaths, the hidden enemies, and the false operators who do not declare their agendas.

Lots of good comments on the New Yorker site. Eg:

"Wikipedia was once a great site, but it has been ruined by too many overzealous editors who all try to hold on to their little self-defined fiefdoms. It is no longer about the truth; it is about getting through the gatekeepers of each individual page. These gatekeepers tend to be white males between the ages of 22 and 42, at least in my experience."

"You should see what Wikipedia has done to Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". It's like some odd bowdlerized CliffNote composition by a ninth grader."

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The gift that keeps on giving

Janet Frame's 'Daniel' poem poster on a Phantom Billstickers site
commemorating her 28 August birthdate
George Street Dunedin 30 August 2012
(Photograph: Peter Olds)


Link to UK Poetry Archive:
(recorded in 2002)

Link to article 'Sharing the deep emotion' by Janet McAllister
about the UK Poetry archive and its founder Andrew Motion
and the Janet Frame 'Daniel' poster
New Zealand Herald Saturday 8 September 2012
Christchurch Press article by Vicki Anderson
about the 'Daniel' poster and the Phantom poems on posters project
Friday 31 August 2012
Janet Frame Clutha (far left) and her great-nephew Daniel (front, hand on heart)
in a family group snapshot
at Frame's house in Whanganui, early 1980s



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Say it often enough and it must be true

Slightly foxed and rubbed copy of Janet Frame's first book The Lagoon and Other Stories - the volume of short stories accepted for publication in 1947 and not published until 1952.

This rare first edition sold last year at auction for NZ $1,600.

There's an error on the imprint page of the first edition, which dates the publication at '1951'.

Even though the facts of the typographical error and the chronology of publication of The Lagoon are known, certain academics and literary historians seem to be extremely reluctant to correct their bibliographies.

I recently tangled with yet another academic who was strangely reluctant to correct this little error in their text. Why so intransigent? Do they fear to make the implicit criticism of their predecessors?

It's a small matter in some respects but it's diagnostic of a more general attitude of inflexibility, a local reluctance to admit that mistakes and misrepresentations have been made concerning Janet Frame's publishing career.

This is not the only mistake concerning Frame that is believed in her homeland to be true, of course. Another one is the egregious falsehood that Frame was "Our most famous author but our least read one" - I have even seen a headline based on this malicious untruth, in the Christchurch Press *only two years ago.

A moment's rational thought and a little research into the multitude of editions, the long term strong and regular sales for most of the over 20 titles Frame published, including local bestseller status for at least half a dozen of her titles across four genres (poetry, stories, novels, and autobiography), the numerous anthologies, the sub-licences and translations, the many many thousands of fans, the ubiquitous presence of her works in libraries and the enthusiasm of not just teachers and students but also the ordinary readers. The adaptations, the setting to music, the audio versions, the film and video and animated versions. The pirate editions! The illegal digital downloads and the illegal private circulation of stolen or illicit material! The quotations, the dozens of books written about Frame. The theses and academic papers! Least read?

'Least read'. What nonsense. Why would someone want to promote such a falsehood? And compared to whom? Are apples being compared to oranges, and is that fair?

 Compared to which other New Zealand poet, novelist, short story writer, is Frame "least read"? Which other Kiwi novelists or poets would really want to stand up against Janet Frame and claim to have more readers for their books than Frame has had for Faces in the Water and Owls Do Cry, or The Goose Bath and the Pocket Mirror, To the Is-Land or An Angel at My Table?

Some literary authors will have outsold those titles, I'm not denying that; but MOST literary authors will come nowhere near her readership.

Next time someone suggests Janet Frame is our "least read" author, ask them, "Least read compared to whom?" And "Least read by whom?"

Do they not just mean that because Janet Frame is so famous, that even people who don't read any quality fiction at all, have heard of her. That doesn't make her "least read", it just confirms that she is "very famous".

And if it were true that she's not much read, who is it that apparently isn't reading Janet Frame? Given that Janet Frame is New Zealand's only author to have ever (so far) come within a hair's breadth of the Nobel Prize for Literature, if there is any supposedly well-read New Zealander who claims never to have read Janet Frame, then it might be asked, why haven't they read her?

* Christchurch Press October 2, 2010. The article was called "Ode to an unread genius" and it was written by Philip Matthews. In the article a University Professor says of Janet Frame: "We know she's a wonderful writer, but no-one's read her." This outrageous claim is not challenged by the journalist, nor is the illogical and wrong claim (now unfortunately gaining ground partly because of poor journalism such as this) that "The phenomenon of her life is why she has become so well-known." Say it often enough, and some people will believe you, but it doesn't make it true. Again, a small amount of diligent research would have made it quite clear that Janet Frame was very famous for her excellent writing long before university academics (or any one else) started obsessing over her life story.

PS: Something else to ponder is that a person does not become famous merely for having had an inspiring or dramatic or tragic life. There are a multitude of talentless and uninteresting people out there whose life stories would amaze you if you ever heard of them. For instance, it's not unique to have had two family members die tragically but coincidentally of similar causes. Janet Frame's life became of interest because of her celebrity, and her celebrity happened because her writing was astonishingly good. She became so famous that she wrote her autobiography, as prominent people frequently do. The autobiography was made into a film, which became even more famous than the already extremely famous author. To say now that Frame's writing had little to do with her fame is... well, what is it? Who is saying it? Why are they saying it? Do they know it's a lie?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Of Gorse it's a bestseller

I have to admit being amazed at seeing Janet Frame's Gorse is Not People at #10 on the list of the Top Ten books sold on New Zealand's online bookstore The (4 September 2012).

The Top Ten list includes all genres including international blockbusters (no surprises at the first three books on the list: they all have the words "Fifty Shades" in their titles) and the local blokey books such as "Hunter from the Heartland" that were heavily promoted for Father's Day on Sunday, plus the latest cookbooks always guaranteed to be gobbled up as hungrily by the book buyers as the recipes they contain. And then they'll need the latest fad diet book!

And along with all those understandably popular titles, there is the gorgeous Gorse - a brand new collection of beautifully written, wise and witty and deeply compassionate and human stories from a late great Kiwi author. The writing is accessible and will appeal to a wide audience, but the literary quality doesn't suffer - could this become an instant classic? Maybe it is too soon to say, but from my point of view it is very gratifying to see such evidence that there is still an eager audience for new work by Janet Frame.

Gorse is Not People is riding high also at #3 on the latest Nielsen Bookscan's NZ Fiction for Adults Bestseller List (week ending 25 August 2012). Gorse has spent five weeks on that list so far, and that's a tremendous achievement when you consider that Gorse has not been made available at all the outlets that contribute to the Bookscan data. (For instance, most of the other books on the bestseller list are on sale at the bulk barn The Warehouse, but Gorse is not on the shelves there.)

But wait, there's more - Janet Frame is this week placed at #10 on the the Indie Top 20 list of all books sold at New Zealand's independent booksellers (week ending 25 August 2012). This list is also supplied by Nielsen Bookscan and covers all genres including international schlockbusters, children's books, recipe books and sports biographies.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Carrying the torch

In 1990 Janet Frame received New Zealand's highest honour - membership of The Order of New Zealand. She is pictured above (top row, second on left) at a reception held by Queen Elizabeth for members of the Order, in the company of other great New Zealanders including: Edmund Hillary, Douglas Lilburn, Sonja Davies and Allen Curnow.

Members of the Order of New Zealand are given an oval medallion and ribbon (pictured) as the badge of the order. The badge must be returned to the Crown on the death of the  member. The badge is then passed to another appointee to the Order.

 Last week, the badge formerly held by Janet Frame was presented to opera singer Dame Malvina Major. The NZ Herald reported:

Dame Malvina was "blown away" by the recognition for her services to New Zealand, but even more so to learn her medal previously belonged to famed writer Frame.
"That's the mana that's been handed onto me. I feel absolutely amazed and privileged to join this group," she said at the ceremony at Government House in Auckland.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Distance looks our way

Das Neuseeland-Lesebuch (2012)
German Publisher Mana Verlag
New Zealand is the honoured guest this year at the Frankfurt Book Fair and what a lot of activity there has been around promoting not just NZ publishing to Germany, but New Zealand itself! (Our food, our unique culture, our film industry, our wine, and our tourism...)

For more information on the ferment of cultural and literary exchange, visit the New Zealand @ Frankfurt web site.

This is also a marvellous opportunity to promote New Zealand writing and writers on an overseas stage, and what great news it is to hear that a record number of New Zealand titles are to be translated into German this year, and across a much wider range of genres than is normally represented.

Three of the NZ books to be published in German translation this year are by Janet Frame (Towards Another Summer, Owls Do Cry, and An Angel at My Table). All three of these are new editions of works already published in Germany in the past. Janet Frame's work has undergone since 1961 quite a few publishing cycles in Germany, but there is definitely an extra buzz thanks to Frankfurt, and there will be a special publication of a boxed set to coincide with the fair:

Werke (Three works by Janet Frame, as a boxed set) 14 September 2012, CH Beck

Another delightful boxed set of New Zealand works will be published by German publisher Mana Verlag which specialises in works about and from Australasia and the Pacific. Authors include Robert Sullivan, Philip Temple, Chad Taylor and Heretaunga Pat Baker.

* 'Distance looks our way' is a quote from NZ poet Charles Brasch.
**  The guide book pictured above this post includes a chapter on NZ literature and art, with an illustrated passage about Janet Frame

Newspaper reviews: a startling contrast


Last weekend Swedish publisher Modernista released four Janet Frame titles (Swedish translations of Frame's first four novels) and already a cursory search of Google reveals that there have been several substantial reviews in daily newspapers, notices, and blog posts including these:

There is a startling contrast between the Swedish reception to the publication of books by Janet Frame, who is known of course to have been a Nobel Prize contender, and the response of the New Zealand print media to the recent publication in her own country of a book of new stories by Janet Frame. Five weeks after the release of Gorse is Not People: New & Uncollected Stories, there has still been no review of that volume, nor any feature article about it, in any New Zealand daily newspaper.

Fortunately in New Zealand there has been just enough publicity to alert Frame's eager fans to the existence of the book. There were 2 TV news items and there has been one radio interview. Extremely positive reviews turned up last week in the NZ Listener weekly magazine and the quarterly NZ Books, and (so I have heard) there was a rave review on a commercial radio station.

But there is not one online review at all (unless you count the excellent launch speech given by 2012 Burns Fellow Emma Neale) - and there is no archived radio review. So absolutely no chance (as yet) of being favoured by the NZ Book Council "review of reviews" feature devoted to "bestselling or much-talked-about books".

Despite the relatively low key publicity compared to that lavished on local chick lit, Gorse is Not People has spent five weeks so far on the NZ Bestseller lists.

Perhaps this experience shows that the dwindling newspaper book pages in this country are in any case becoming increasingly irrelevant as literary editors are made redundant and features pages are outsourced.

Or is the answer the phenomenon here in Kiwi land called "the tall poppy syndrome" where anyone who stands out or excels, is resented and envied (unless they are a rugby player) and it is widely felt that they must be cut back to the size of everyone else. There's another related phenomenon called "the "cultural cringe", which is similar in effect to the old proverb "A prophet is not known in his own country".

Ironically, the magazine and newspaper book pages in this small pond can be seen to have rushed into print if any other author can be quoted with any gossip about Janet Frame.

The time between receipt of a review copy and the publication of juicy anecdotes concerning "Janet", can be shown to be invariably brief, and sometimes the review even precedes publication!

For new work by Frame herself, it's a different story.