Thursday, March 28, 2013

Yours posthumously

Janet Frame made it pretty clear that she was leaving a large amount of unpublished work for 'posterity'.

Frame mentioned her unpublished poetry and stories and novels often (in radio and press interviews, in letters and conversations quoted in Michael King's biography, in her autobiography); she even publicly named some of her unpublished pieces and novels (eg Towards Another Summer, 'Gorse is Not People'). Many anecdotes from the literary world tell of conversations Frame had with friends and colleagues in which she mentioned her unpublished work and her desire especially to publish more of her poems and other writings. For instance Bill Manhire is quoted in a recent NZ Listener interview as saying he had discovered a letter to him from Janet Frame from the mid 1980s in which she wanted to discuss publishing a volume of poems and stories. (For whatever reason, this project never eventuated.) And Greg O'Brien has spoken of Janet Frame telling him about "the novel I wrote in France" (In the Memorial Room, soon to be published.)

In her lifetime Frame explained many of the reasons why she kept some of her work back, and she left some explicit instructions and some clues about what should be done with it after her death.

Her editors have outlined these reasons in the introductions, prefaces and afterwords to the publications pictured above. One volume The Goose Bath (the first of the posthumous publications) has all three: a preface, an introduction, and an afterword!

Frame's posthumous editors (and I am of course one of these) have never attempted to 'justify' posthumous publication of Frame, as in every case we have been confident that Janet Frame's work was capable of being taken at face value and worthy of being judged on its own literary merits rather than being subsumed as mere biographical curiosity. We have where appropriate laid out Frame's own explanations (for instance, the reluctance of some publishers to print poetry or stories when novels 'sell better') and we have also made educated guesses as to other possible factors.

But in the end, the only watchword and justification for publication is the quality of the work.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Another terrific review of GORSE

Just one more week to celebrate NZ Book Month! Click here to download your $5 voucher to redeem on the book of your choice.

Hint hint: if you haven't checked out Gorse is Not People yet, why not now?

Janet Frame's new story collection Gorse is Not People is still on the shop shelves, still cropping up on the bestseller charts, and it is still receiving excellent reviews, establishing itself as another Janet Frame classic.

As this new review in Latitude magazine (Feb/March 2013) states, this book is "A gorgeous treasure. A perfect gift."

"Not everyone enjoys short stories but make an exception for this collection."

"The moods are big. The detail is striking. It is hauntingly beautiful."

'a book for all seasons and readers'

"This truly is a book for all seasons and readers."
"This is the stuff of classic Frame. Rich layered writing with immediately imaginable characters – at times with a dose of fairytale and more than once with a desperate and deep sadness."
"Five stars from me. A must for Frame fans as well as people looking for magical short stories to spark the imagination and create lasting memories of how great reading can really be."

From the Booksellers New Zealand Blog review of Janet Frame's Gorse is Not People: New and Uncollected Stories (Penguin 2012).

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fifty Favourites from Fifty Years

In 2012 Dunedin's University Book Shop celebrated its 50th year at 378 Great King Street, and to mark the occasion customers were asked to nominate their favourite 5 books published in the last 50 years. The resulting list of fifty favourite titles includes Janet Frame's To the Is-Land. (I understand that other Janet Frame titles were also nominated but this was the most popular.)

Other New Zealand favourites were The Bone People, The Torchlight List, Novel about My Wife, Mr Pip and The 10pm Question. There were older friends such as Lord of the Flies, Catch 22, The Lord of the Rings, A Clockwork Orange and One Hundred Years of Solitude and newer ones such as The Hare with Amber Eyes, The Blind Assassin, The Lovely Bones and The Hunger Games.

The brochure is available in store. Or compile your own list!  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Born in a marvellous year

Maudie Wilson, perhaps New Zealand's oldest citizen, is 110 years old today.
Maudie Wilson was born on March 23rd 1903, the very same day as Norris Frank Davey (known to us now as the prominent Kiwi author Frank Sargeson who died in 1982).
Happy 110th birthday to the late Frank and to his long-lived astrological twin.

A new passport: 'myself as myself'

"This slim woman of average height who had striking curly reddish hair and a soft, sometimes barely audible voice." 
~ Dr Robert Cawley (London, 1958, quoted in Wrestling with the Angel: a Life of Janet Frame by Michael King, 2000)

I stayed many months in hospital, and each time it might have appeared to Dr Cawley that all my problems had been solved, I would immediately present a new emergency, either through fear of being abandoned or because there was another problem I dared not mention.
With time, the marvellous luxury of time, and patience, Dr Cawley convinced me that I was myself, I was an adult, I need not explain myself to others. The ‘you should’ days were over, he said. You
should go here, go there, be this, be that, do this, do that – you should you know – it would be good for you! Lifelong, largely because of my own makeup, I had been a target for the You should-ers, with a long interval of You must Or Else: it was time to begin again.
Perhaps I had sensed a new beginning or tried to advance it because one day during the past summer I had changed my surname, recording it on the necessary document. I had been issued with a new passport.

No longer, I hoped, dependent on my ‘schizophrenia’ for comfort and attention and help, but with myself as myself, I again began my writing career.

~ Janet Frame, from The Envoy from Mirror City (3rd volume of autobiography)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

R.I.P. Poppy

"It seemed to me that Poppy knew everything."

Janet Frame's childhood friend Marjorie, known as Poppy, died earlier this month in Oamaru.

Janet Frame devoted a chapter of To the Is-Land (her first volume of autobiography) to her memories of her friendship with Poppy. Among other riches of folklore and cultural knowledge, Janet Frame credited to Poppy her influential discovery of the much treasured Grimms' Fairy Tales.

Poppy's book of Grimms' Fairy Tales was "returned and borrowed, again and again". Through this introduction to the book of fairy tales "the world of living and the world of reading became linked in a way I had not noticed before".

"Grimms' Fairy Tales was everybody's story told in a special way."

Poppy is survived by four children, 8 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild.

I hear from a mutual friend that Poppy's friendship with Janet Frame was mentioned warmly at her funeral. May she rest in peace.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

'He was like a God'

It was the youth of Dr. Howell which appealed to us; the other doctors who did not look after us but who were in charge of the hospital were grey-haired and elderly and hurried in and out of their offices down in front of the building like rats in and out of their hiding places; and they sat, in their work, with the same old chewed solutions littered about them, like nesting material. It was Dr. Howell who tried to spread the interesting news that mental patients were people and therefore might like occasionally to engage in the activities of people. Thus were born ‘The Evenings’ when we played cards — snap, old maid, donkey and euchre; and ludo and snakes and ladders, with prizes awarded and supper afterwards. But where was the extra staff to supervise the activities? Pavlova, the one Social Worker for the entire hospital, valiantly attended a few ‘social’ evenings held for men and women patients in the Ward Four dayroom. She watched people mount ladders and slide down chutes and travel home on the red and blue squares of ludo. She too was pleased when the climax of the evening came with the arrival of Dr. Howell in sports coat and soft shoes, with his corn-coloured hair slicked down and his undoctorly laugh sounding loud and full. He was like a god; he joined in the games and threw the dice with the aplomb of a god hurling a thunderbolt; he put on the appropriate expression of dismay when he was ordered to slide down a chute, but you could see that he was a charmer even of bile-green cardboard snakes. And of people. He was Pavlova’s god too, we knew that; but no amount of leaping about in her soiled white coat with the few bottom buttons undone could help her to steal Dr. Howell from the occupational therapist. Poor Pavlova! And Poor Noeline, who was waiting for Dr. Howell to propose to her although the only words he had even spoken to her were How are you? Do you know where you are? Do you know why you are here? — phrases which ordinarily would be hard to interpret as evidence of affection. But when you are sick you find in yourself a new field of perception where you make a harvest of interpretations which then provides you with your daily bread, your only food. So that when Dr. Howell finally married the occupational therapist, Noeline was taken to the disturbed ward. She could not understand why the doctor did not need her more than anyone else in the world, why he had betrayed her to marry someone whose only virtue seemed to be the ability to show patients who were not always interested, how to weave scarves and make shadow stitch on muslin.
~ From Faces in the Water, by Janet Frame (Virago Modern Classic)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

'the mad wives of modernism'

Kate Zambreno’s Heroines is about ‘The mad wives of modernism who died in the asylum. Locked away, rendered safe. Forgotten, erased or rewritten.’

"Their best route out was to prove themselves as great authors - Janet Frame spent eight years in an institution after a mistaken schizophrenia diagnosis, undergoing 200 electroshock treatments before being released after a hospital official read that her [book of stories] had won an award."

Read more in this New Statesman review

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What they were saying (NYT 1982)

1982 New York Times review of To The Is-Land (Janet Frame's first volume of autobiography):

"Janet Frame, the author of 10 highly regarded novels and a volume of poetry, knows how to avoid the pitfalls of memory and keep her tale eventful."

"It is a wistful tale, honestly and believably told, of the puzzling encounters of childhood, the recognitions, the gain and the loss."

"The story ends with a lonely, troubled girl traveling ''south on the Sunday slow train to Dunedin and my Future'' -to a new Is-land, the Dunedin Teachers' College, where she would prepare to become the teacher she didn't want to be. And one closes the book aware that if one is to know Janet Frame better, hear the rest of it, one must consent to follow her on her journey to as many Is-Lands as there are. Yet this vivid first volume is in a real sense complete, satisfying not merely as Chapter One but as an account of the making of a writer from the beginning possessed by words."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Regent and the Miami

Have you ever been to the pictures in the town where the Withers live? There are two theatres opposite each other, the Regent and the Miami. At the Regent the prices are higher and the films what are called first-class without any intrusion of moronic cartoon or ride-’em-cowboy serials or half-naked women stranded in rubber plantations and beset upon by perspiring white men in topees and shorts, the acknowledged tropical dress. The toffs, the rich and educated, go to the Regent in their best clothes and furs. There is a fake night sky in the ceiling, covered with stars that are fixed to twinkle realistically in the central-heated air, above the rows of looking and rustling and hushing rich and prosperous people. The lights go out, the stars fade, there is a murmur of pleasure.
Oh what luxury even to breathe.

The Miami, especially in winter, is austere and cold with an icy wind blowing through the heavy velvet curtains at the back. The unenlightened people go there, to whistle and sing out and rustle chocolate papers and blow through their teeth Whe-e-e-e whenever the hero and heroine kiss, or when she throws her clothes from behind a curtain and you know she is either going to bed or about to have a censored bath. The crowd like the kissing and the touching and the fights with pulled hair and slapped faces.
—You brute, how dare you.
—My darling, you are everything in the world to me.

The Miami, because of its lower caste, does not cost as much as the Regent. If you want to look at the stars there, you go outside to see them fretting their light with frost and cold cloud. They cannot be extinguished with a turn of a switch and you do not pay for them.
(Excerpt from Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Race Relations Day 21 March 2013

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is celebrated on the 21st of March around the world. See the NZ Human Rights Commission website for more details and suggestions for active participation.

The 2013 theme for Race Relations Day in NZ is “My Dream for Aotearoa New Zealand is …”

Janet Frame's dream:
"I am eager for our sometimes narrow, insular views to be widened by all means possible – interchange with other cultures, visits to and fro, and for us to be able to recognise our worth and shortcomings honestly as a nation, without having to constantly boast or apologise. We need, especially in New Zealand, to be able to enter imaginatively into the minds and lives of other cultures."

~ Janet Frame (1983)
(from a NZ Times interview, quoted in Janet Frame In Her Own Words, Penguin NZ, 2011)


Friday, March 8, 2013

James McNeish to give Janet Frame Lecture

Just a reminder that the annual Janet Frame Memorial Lecture is to be held on Monday 11 March 2013 in Wellington at the City Art Gallery in Civic Square, starting at 6.00 pm.
The lecture is jointly sponsored by The New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ Inc.) and NZ Book Month, this year presented in partnership with the City Gallery Wellington.
"Intended to help improve understanding of what it means to be a writer in New Zealand, the Janet Frame Memorial Lectures deliver an overview of the state of the nation’s literature from the point of view of one of its most active authors."
The annual lecture is given by the current President of Honour for the NZ Society of Authors. Previous Janet Frame Memorial Lecturers were Owen Marshall, Greg O’Brien, William Taylor and Joy Cowley. Janet Frame herself was a previous President of Honour for the NZSA (PEN).
This year the lecture is to be delivered by prominent author Sir James NcNeish who recently published Touchstones: a Memoir.
His lecture is entitled "Two Cheers for Eccentricity" and will consist of a non-academic approach to the subject of creative non-fiction.
Sir James will be introduced by Dame Fiona Kidman.

The lecture will be held in the Adam Auditorium and entry is free. All welcome.
What a marvellous event this promises to be! I very much regret not being able to attend it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Who is reading this blog?

Thanks to Blogger I know that the most visits to this blog have come from the United States.

Here are the top fifteen countries where visitors hail from:

United States
New Zealand
United Kingdom


Some recent visits have come from Italy, Beirut, Chile, India, Malaysia, Mexico.

"delicious new gem"

The Watercress Novel

Great to see anticipation is growing about this delightful novel that Janet Frame wrote in Menton in 1974 but never published.

"I'm sorry not to be doing anything with the novel I wrote in France," she said, some years later.

In the Memorial Room even found itself a place as a 'character' (fictionalised as "The Watercress novel") in her later masterpiece Living in the Maniototo (1979).

Text Publishing, jacketed hardback and e-book, 24 April 2013 (Australia/New Zealand)
 ISBN: 9781922147134

Counterpoint Press (USA) tba

Rights: The Wylie Agency

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

High praise for Janet Frame's new story collection

There has been a  recent rush of glowing reviews for the beautiful, funny and moving posthumous collection of new stories by Janet Frame.
Two late reviews have come in for the New Zealand edition Gorse is Not People: New & Uncollected Stories (published in August 2012), coinciding with two early pre-publication reviews for the US edition Between My Father and the King: New and Uncollected Stories to be published in the USA in May 2013.
Both these titles contain exactly the same selection of stories, and reviewers have been united in their glowing praise for Frame's writing and for the collection.

Landfall Review Online

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Booksellers New Zealand 

Large Print Gorse

Yes, there is a large print edition of Gorse is Not People. It's more expensive, but perhaps you could ask your local public library to invest in a copy!

Gorse is Not People: New and Uncollected Stories by Janet Frame (2012)
Read How You Want (Large Print Edition, paperback) $65.99 from The Nile Online

"beautifully rendered" - Publishers Weekly

Between My Father and the King, The US edition of Janet Frame's posthumous stories due out in May 2013, has attracted another starred review! This time from Publishers Weekly:

The review speaks of Janet Frame's "legacy of exceptional writing, both fiction and nonfiction" and says that this new collection "showcases her extraordinary gifts as an imaginative storyteller with a singular viewpoint".

"Even the weather, in “I Got a Shoes,” is transformed by Frame’s lovely vision: “It rained big drops, pelting down hard like a punishment.”

"a surprise present like no other"

There is a terrific review of Janet Frame's Gorse is Not People in the March 2013 issue of Landfall Review Online.

In 'Going to Town' reviewer Helen Watson White describes the posthumous volume of stories as "a gem of a book, or rather a string of gems, each uniquely coloured, cut and crafted."

White presents an informed and thoughtful analysis of the book, comparing it to the rest of Frame's oeuvre and finding that there is no question that each of the stories in this collection is of the highest quality, indistinguishable from those published in Janet Frame's lifetime:

 "I recommend that you read these comic, tragic and tragicomic pieces of prose theatre as I did, without any aids (for I didn't look up the note until I finished each one). I defy anyone to discriminate between those which were published early, or never, between those Frame submitted for publication herself, and those submitted on her behalf. You simply cannot tell, and they are selected and presented here just as they should be, to succeed on their own terms."

Friday, March 1, 2013

NZ Book Month

March is New Zealand Book Month - and time to support Kiwi writers!
Browse the NZ Book Month website and look out for the $5 giveaway vouchers in newspapers, at BNZ and at Caltex stations!