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'.