Monday, December 23, 2013
That's the first translation deal for both these brand new posthumous titles.
Another recent agreement I'm thrilled about is with Turkish publisher Yapi Kredi. Janet Frame's novel Faces in the Water and her autobiographical trilogy An Angel at My Table will follow the already published novels Owls Do Cry and Towards Another Summer into Turkish translation.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Frank Sargeson wrote this to EP (Peter) Dawson on the 22nd of December 1965. The letter is quoted in Michael King's biography of Frame but was not chosen by Waikato academic Sarah Shieff for her careful selection of Sargeson's letters that, although she gave it the title Letters of Frank Sargeson (Random House 2012), was not by any means a complete letters. Nor, unfortunately, was it the comprehensive and revisionist project that would have blasted some myths and stereotypes that have accrued around Sargeson and his relationship with Frame. (Sargeson was briefly Frame's 'mentor' but the tables swiftly turned, as the unexpurgated correspondence between them makes quite clear. And yet one still hears Sargeson referred to as Frame's 'mentor': she is rarely even permitted the status of equal 'friendship' with him. In fact lately there seems to be a ridiculous trend towards calling Frame Sargeson's protégée.) I see the Shieff Letters as having delivered a politely curated hagiographical view of Sargeson, designed not to upset any applecarts in the conservative and hidebound NZ literary academic community.
One example of what in my opinion was an editing bias in the Shieff Letters is the glossing over of the issue of Sargeson having stolen or copied some of Frame's manuscripts while she was boarding in his backyard hut.
Shieff allowed through into her version of the letters, plenty of demeaning and derogatory commentary by Frank (and others) about Janet, especially from the early years when the "mid century misogynists'" apparently genuinely believed Frame to be hopelessly psychotic.
Clearly it will take more than a generation before the fiercely possessive 'Sargeson Mafia' can let their St Frank down off his pedestal and let him too, be "so human and marvellous as a person".
The Shieff Letters certainly do not conceal the fact that Frank could be, as independent scholar Nicholas Reid notes in his excellent review of Shieff's volume, "a real arsehole".
But despite his own personal awareness of Sargeson's at time Machiavellian influence, even Reid appears to swallow whole the Authorised Version of Janet Frame-as-demented-cotcase that Sargeson so seamlessly cemented into the collective consciousness of NZ Lit, largely by means of his "agonising letters from the middle 1950s about Janet Frame and the state of her mental health".
The reviewers all seem to know that Sargeson could be a nasty piece of work, but when it comes to his sly propaganda belittling Janet Frame and her work (over decades, as it turns out), all of a sudden their critical faculties appear suspended and Frank is treated as if he were the authority on her 'mental state'. His paranoia, his envy, his neuroticism, his tendency to exaggerate, to tease, to lie, none of these are taken into account regarding his astonishing pronouncements about Janet Frame.
No one is astonished. They already *know* all they need to know about poor Janet.
No wonder she fled the country in fear of her life.
Unfortunately some bookshops and online booksellers may have already sold out. But there are still plenty of books available in the retail network, so if you want to buy a copy of this beautiful and unique volume, now is the time.
Meanwhile there are another two reviews of The Mijo Tree to add to the roundup of notices in the previous post:
Otago Daily Times:
"a dark and autobiographical fable"
"The themes of love and loss, life and death, innocence and experience are reworked here, but Frame's rich sense of black humour also shines through."
"The stunningly detailed black-and-white illustrations by Cromwell artist Deidre Copeland add significantly to this poignant and timeless tale by one of our literary greats."
Kia Ora, New Zealand:
"Janet Frame's clever fairy tale The Mijo Tree has never before been published. It's a witty, artfully crafted story about a stubborn, thoughtless wee mijo tree with ideas above her station and a circle of friends that includes a valley wind and a rather charismatic goat. The illustrations, by Deidre Copeland, are absorbing in their detail. The story is not for the faint of heart - as with the best fairy tales, it has a very dark centre indeed."
Thursday, December 19, 2013
"Janet Frame has written a small and perfectly formed fable, but one that packs a punch. It is beautiful, thought provoking, and dark, gloriously dark."
"The illustrations by Deidre Copeland are stunning and capture perfectly the undertones of the story."
"The book shows again the breadth of her talent; that she could tell a simple, tragic tale that appears at first to be written for children but becomes a dark allegory for pride, pain, disloyalty and death. It has been suggested that the story is Frame's reflection on the end of a love affair, but that is not the point. The point is that the story encapsulates the emotional reality of the adult world mixing a little bit of goth with a lot of charming animism."
"It's hard not to ooh and aah at the loveliness of the illustration and design"
"offering something between fairy tale and absurdist allegory"
Feature: Otago Daily Times
News Item: Otago Daily Times
Interview with Pamela Gordon Radio NZ
Interview with illustrator Deidre Copeland: Southand Times
The Mijo Tree has spent six weeks so far on the Nielsen Bookscan NZ Fiction top ten bestseller list. It currently sits at #5.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
travelling Kiwi Mr Jim Wilson
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Portrait of Michael King (1987)
Woollaston, Mountford Tosswill (Sir)
Reference Number: G-709-1
National Library of New Zealand
Year after year the birthdays return, even after our loved ones die. Today marks the birthday of Janet Frame's friend and biographer the late Michael King, historian, journalist and independent scholar. He would have been 68 years old. During the years that he was researching and writing Janet Frame's biography - and afterwards - Michael became a familiar and loved presence in the Frame/Gordon family circle. His tragic death in 2004 along with his wife Maria in a fiery car accident, only two months after Janet had died of leukemia, was a shocking blow to everyone, to the whole country.
A birthday or an anniversary is a good time to consider the life and the relationships and the achievements of the person we remember. I have a lot to remember Michael by - all those fine books, the TV programmes, our correspondence and his archives - and even the last email he sent me, just as he was about to leave the house on the day he died. But today I recalled that he had inscribed some of his books for me so I had a look at a couple of them, and thought I'd share a couple of those pages with you, gentle blog readers.
The dead have worn out my grief.
I gave it to them to wear,
renewing it year after year
nor was I the sole supplier.
~ Janet Frame (from 'The Dead' in The Goose Bath, 2006)
Friday, December 13, 2013
"a stylishly bound and beautifully illustrated book from New Zealand's greatest writer"
"universal truths for us all - our dreams, desires, failings and hopes - all spelled out in Frame's luscious poetic language"
"You will return to it again and again."
The Mijo Tree has been reviewed by Patricia McLean on the Waxeye Writing Website. It's a thoughtful and informed review, the kind of review any author (or executor) longs to read, where the critic has engaged with the text and the context.
This particular paragraph is one of the best I have ever seen on the way that one of the dominant strands of narrative within 'NZ Lit' continues to pathologise Janet Frame and belittle her work:
"Who could blame her for her reticence, given her suffering at the hands of the psychiatric profession and critics who continue to scrutinise her work for signs of madness? It brings to mind R D Laing's argument that the family is the place where madness is constructed in one individual who is set up to represent the mental instability of its other members. If one could imagine the New Zealand literary community as a family, then Frame is the sister labelled mad in order to conceal the madness of the rest."
I once thought that this patronising NZ attitude McLean refers to, to Frame-as-deviant, on the whole belonged to the dark distant past - with the one glaring exception being the notorious Patrick Evans who has obsessively chased Frame for decades waving a metaphorical straightjacket and gag. Apart from Evans, it was only the malicious gossips amongst the "mid-century misogynists" who appeared to need to assuage their envy of Frame's success by attributing her literary achievements to her "mad genius". Alas, ill-informed misrepresentations of Frame seem to be flourishing right now, along with the churlish jaded innuendo that seeps into the communications of the NZ Lit chatterati and twitterati, so it's good to see some opposition to this cultural cringe emerging!
Despite having had only a rare mention so far in the mainstream media, The Mijo Tree continues to feature on the Nielsen NZ Fiction Top Ten Bestseller List - #6 this week.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Coincidentally the 10th of December is a significant day in Frame's career: it was the day in 1952 that the NZ literary organisation P.E.N. signed off on the certificate for her Hubert Church Award for 'the best Prose by a New Zealander' for her first book The Lagoon and other stories.
See my blog post last year commemorating the 60th anniversary of that life-changing event.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Monday, December 2, 2013
I told Frank my news.
‘So what?’ he said, showing his bitterness towards his own family. ‘Parents are better dead.’
Bravely, I agreed with him.
That night in the privacy of the hut I wept, and the next morning, faced with Frank’s scornful reproaches about ‘all those tears’, I explained that I was weeping for Mother’s life, not for her death.
'Janet Frame: Literary spellbinder'
Penguin Books NZ has recently released a beautifully designed hardback edition of The Mijo Tree, illustrated by Deidre Copeland, including a biographical afterword and a useful chronology of the highlights of Janet Frame's career as one of the great 20th century writers.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Saturday, November 30, 2013
The Charles Brasch Papers are held by the Hocken Library in Dunedin and include correspondence with his friend Janet Frame as well as many other leading figures in the arts and literary world.
See news report: New Zealand Herald (28 Nov 2013).
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
“In 1988, there appeared a longer piece of fiction, the novella titled The Brain of Katherine Mansfield..." Imagination and the Creative Impulse in the New Literatures in English, edited by Maria Teresa Bindella, Geoffrey V. Davis (1993).
"The Brain of Katherine Mansfield: Bill Manhire's interactive adventure novella edited in a hypertext edition by Richard Easther and Jolisa Gracewood."
(Hello! Jolisa Gracewood edited Bill Manhire's novella into hypertext? In 1997? Sixteen years ago! What a coincidence and what a collective memory blank the rigidly prescriptive Twitter conversation**** appears to reveal!)
Was it poetry? Or fiction? Or non-fiction? It sure wasn't a children's book. Does it matter? It was fun, and clever.
I suppose if I were churlish I might have observed that the text of the book with its seven short stanzas "was barely the length of a sonnet!!"
Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant often appears as a standalone publication beautifully presented, loved by children and parents alike. But while we're counting, Wilde's story is fewer than two thousand words in length. About a third the size of The Mijo Tree.
According to Umberto Eco, the world's shortest novel is the Italian "El Dinosaurio" ("The Dinosaur") by Augusto Monterroso:
"Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí."
("When he awoke, the dinosaur was still there.")
**** Literary elder has an attack of the prescriptives (move over, CK Stead!):
The shortest novella in the world: http://t.co/uaaS6uybgy
— Bill Manhire (@pacificraft) November 19, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
Mary Otis reviews Between My Father & the King for The Rumpus.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
This is, I think, the first review of Janet Frame's fable The Mijo Tree. And it comes from outside the New Zealand literary world, and from someone who hasn't read Janet Frame before.
"I wasn’t aware of Janet Frame before reading this novella. The story often brought me close to tears and this before even casting my eyes upon the afterword that explains the reasons for recently publishing this secret work."
I'm always so glad to hear the response from someone who reads Janet Frame before being told what to think about her. I do not think Frame needs to be explained or interpreted. That's why when I was persuaded - reluctantly - to provide a commentary for this glittering fable, I insisted on it appearing as an optional afterword.
For any readers who may have already been exposed to the sexist and patronising narratives that have dominated Frame's story for so long, I do hope my essay encourages them to approach her work with fresh eyes, without preconceptions, and take it at face value.
For Frame's fans, I do hope you enjoy this last wonderful treat!
In the Memorial Room has secured another Kirkus star for Janet Frame: the second this year! (The first was on Feb 1st 2013 for Janet Frame's story collection Between My Father and the King.)
And what a brilliant review this new Kirkus one is (November 1st 2013).
In fact the last paragraph of the Kirkus review of In the Memorial Room sums up the reviewer's response to Janet Frame's long-lost tour de force in just one word:
The last of the Australasian book reviews for Janet Frame's 13th and final novel In the Memorial Room, released here in May this year, are overlapping with the first of the US reviews for the American edition to be published on the 10th of December!
See the previous post for a link to Kelly Ana Morey's fine review 'The cult of the author' in November's Landfall Review Online.
"Frame knows how to hit the sweetest spot when it comes to wry and dry, observational humour. People are ridiculously silly and Frame not only knew that but she is the high priestess of the dark art of conveying it with words. And nowhere in her vast oeuvre is it more evident in her last novel, her final chuckle from the grave, In The Memorial Room."
"This is not a novel as has been suggested, about how miserable Frame found the Katherine Mansfield Residency, but rather one based on her years of observation; watching and understanding, and I suspect being hugely amused, by the social conventions and expectations of this kind of strangeness that is New Zealand Literature. How it can eat you alive, spit you out again or even attempt to replace you with a person who looks far more the part."
"The cult of expectation is alive and well, as are the literary vultures who never read anything, but always mean to. And not only is the satire still relevant, but the writing hasn’t dated either, and that’s Frame’s true genius. In the Memorial Room could have been written yesterday, it’s just that fresh and relevant in the telling."
In the Memorial Room was published in New Zealand and Australia earlier this year (May 2013) by Text Publishing and will be released in the USA next month (10 December 2013) by Counterpoint Press.
Kelly Ana Morey has been in the news this week for winning a Michael King Writers' Centre Maori Writer's Residency to work on her new novel Daylight Second based on the life of racehorse Phar Lap.
The launch of Janet Frame's The Mijo Tree was held last week at Dunedin's University Book Shop. Novelist Vanda Symon did the honours in launching the book. She started by reading out a message on behalf of the publisher, Penguin Books NZ.
Vanda then continued:
We then heard from the illustrator of the book, Deidre (Dee) Copeland who has travelled the world working as an illustrator, teacher, photographer and painter. Major art awards, extensive media coverage and a growing list of patrons have confirmed Deidre as one of New Zealand’s top portrait painters. She was born on a sheep farm in rural Southland and now lives with her family in Central Otago where she paints full-time from her studio-church in Cromwell. She illustrated the children’s picture book Moon Cow by Kyle Mewburn.
It was fascinating and moving to hear about Deidre's dedication to doing justice to Janet Frame's story. And she certainly has!
Thanks to Phillippa Duffy and the staff at the UBS for hosting this launch and for their support for local writers; Bronwyn Wylie-Gibb for all the work you put into these wonderful occasions, and Marcus for helping tonight.
Thanks too to Sarah Thornton who helped arranged this launch for Penguin, who was the first publicist we ever worked with, nearly ten years ago!
Thanks to all of you who have come to celebrate this event: friends, family, booksellers, librarians, archivists, journalists, artists, academics, teachers, students, fans, fellow authors, even politicians (a special shout out to my friend Clare Curran, MP for Dunedin South where Janet Frame's family lived when she was born, and where Janet returned to live out her last years). I'd also like to acknowledge all those people who sent apologies and who are here with us in spirit.
Thanks to the magnificent Vanda Symon for kindly launching this book and congratulations on your most recent novel The Faceless being a finalist for The Ngaio Marsh Crime Awards.
Thanks to the best literary agent in the world, Andrew Wylie, and to his team for their work on Janet Frame's behalf. They believe in her work and they do a fantastic job all around the world in many territories and many languages. Just this week I signed the contract for the first foreign translations for In the Memorial Room and for Gorse is Not People (Italian is the first language off the block this time).
Thanks to Geoff Walker who had the foresight to negotiate the 3-book deal with the Frame estate as one of the last of his many great accomplishments at Penguin NZ. And thanks to Debra Millar who took over the helm and has guided this last book safely through an increasingly stormy environment for NZ publishing.
HUGE thanks to Katie Haworth who led the team at Penguin who worked on The Mijo Tree. She was amazing to work with. Special thanks to Catherine O'Loughlin and Tessa King. Thanks too to Sarah Healey the designer and all the others who played their parts.
Thanks to Deidre Copeland for joining us tonight and for speaking about your beautiful illustrations which everybody agrees are PERFECT. (Your story about looking for the mijo tree had me in tears.) Thanks too for bringing the exquisite original illustrations for us to look at, before they go on to your exhibition at The Artist's Room. It's so good to meet you in person for the first time!
Thanks to the Hocken Collections for being the place Janet Frame trusted to leave her manuscripts. (She made that decision very early in her career, and lodged her first papers there in the 1960s - The Mijo Tree has been at the Hocken since 1970. Janet never wavered from her resolve to lodge her manuscripts at the Hocken Library despite lots of pressure and financial temptation to sell her papers to the Turnbull or to overseas institutions.) So I acknowledge the Hocken Librarians and staff who have cared for her manuscripts over the years, and thanks to Anna Blackman for representing those good people tonight.
It has been a busy time for the Janet Frame estate. Sadly, The Mijo Tree is the fifth and last of the posthumous publications from the complete unpublished manuscripts that Janet Frame left at the Hocken.
The collection of poems: The Goose Bath
The two novels: Towards Another Summer, and In the Memorial Room
The collection of stories: Gorse is Not People (aka Between My Father & the King)
And now this fable (some call a novella): The Mijo Tree
That's a lot of work in ten years. Apart from reissuing all the backlist, we have also edited and published a selected published stories (Prizes aka The Daylight & the Dust) and a selected poems (Storms Will Tell), a small volume of letters, and the collected non-fiction (Janet Frame in Her Own Words).
So tonight my heart is full. It's very satisfying to be at this point. It has been sheer joy working on The Mijo Tree and it's a magical, beautiful book. Thank you to everyone who has supported and helped and encouraged us.
* Mijo is pronounced Mee-ho in the Spanish way.