Saturday, November 30, 2013

Memory of the World

At a ceremony in Dunedin this week three documentary collections were placed on the UNESCO 'Memory of the World' Register: the Sir Edmund Hillary Archive, the lyrics and score of 'God Defend New Zealand' and the Charles Brasch Papers.

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

Encapsulating celebrity

Caricature of Janet Frame by Murray Webb
National Library of New Zealand
Reference Number DX -001-567
This quote by New Zealand cartoonist Tom Scott caught my eye a few days ago. It appeared in a Fairfax Your Weekend feature article on his friend the caricaturist Murray Webb:
‘‘I look at him in awe,’’ says Scott. ‘‘He’s as good in his own way as Janet Frame and Lorde and Eleanor Catton. He never quite got the national attention he deserves.’’
Let's hope that the article, written by Diana Dekker, goes someway towards redressing this perceived lack of local attention. But what intrigued me was the trio of celebrity women that Tom Scott compared the artist to. I had linked these three dazzling stars together myself in an earlier blog post: 100% Pure NZ Heroine.
I don't know if Murray Webb has done one of his famous celebrity likenesses of Lorde or Eleanor Catton yet, those brilliant, hardworking and outspoken Kiwi women who have excelled on the world stage just as Janet Frame had, but thanks to the National Library of New Zealand, you can see (above) one of his interpretations of Janet Frame.
Like Janet Frame, Webb abandoned an unsuitable teaching career in very short order: "He empathised with Janet Frame’s solution for finding herself a square peg in a round teacher hole: to walk out the school gate during class, never to return."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"filled with terrifyingly beautiful reflections" ~ New York Times

"This short, funny and often beautifully written novel — completed in the early 1970s but just now being published — provides an excellent occasion for remembering the weird wisdom and genuine talent of Janet Frame, who died in 2004 after a startlingly diverse life."
"The problem with literature, Harry concludes, is that this very nothingness — like the nothingness of the dead writer, Margaret Rose Hurndell, in whose honor his award has been given — is what critics and readers memorialize."
New York Times Book Review, 24 November 2013, review of In the Memorial Room (Counterpoint Press, 2013)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Phantom Billstickers Café Reader Vol 2

The Summer issue of the Café Reader is out now.
Packed full of great reading from the likes of Janet Frame, Gerald Stern, Hinemoana Baker, Bill Direen, Tusiata Avia, David Eggleton - and many more.
Poetry, memoir, fiction. Very cool. And FREE!
There's a short story by Janet Frame and a snapshot of her with a friend at John Money's house in Baltimore, Maryland.
The Reader has been so popular Phantom are having to reprint.
Look out for it at these places:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"The shortest novella in the world" ~ Bill Manhire

Almost a month after its release, The Mijo Tree by Janet Frame has had its first review* from within the New Zealand literary establishment.

At least I think it's a review. It could be the shortest review in the world.

Last night Bill Manhire, former head of the influential International Institute of Modern Letters, tweeted a link to the publisher Penguin NZ's page for The Mijo Tree, prefaced by his comment:

"The shortest novella in the world."

"Is that your review?" responded Victoria University Press publisher Fergus Barrowman, to which Manhire retorted:

"Have you seen it? It's barely a short story."
'Twitter Auntie'** Jolisa Gracewood entered the conversation, saying wittily: "I saw it today at the Women's Bookshop, vying for space with Zadie Smith's new hardback short story..."
And Fergus Barrowman confirmed that he had seen it too:
"I like the paper."
Apparently we are judging books now, by their length. Are fewer than 800 pages not acceptable any more?***
This critique of a shorter text seems particularly short-sighted, or short-memoried, in Bill Manhire's case, since his own Contributor Note in Sport 1 (Spring 1988) states this:
“Bill Manhire's reader-decides novella The Brain of Katherine Mansfield was published this year.”
I have a cherished copy of this work Manhire himself described as a 'novella', and on perusing it carefully I conclude that in terms of its short length, its unconventional narrative, and its subject matter, it is no more or less worthy than Janet Frame's book is of the term 'novella', which is a notoriously slippery handle anyway, often used to define what a book is NOT rather than what it is.
The word count seems very similar to that of The Mijo Tree. Spookily so.
In fact The Brain of Katherine Mansfield could well be a contender for the title of 'The shortest novella in the world'.
Bill Manhire is not the only person to have defined his short episodic work as a 'novella':

“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 New Zealand Book Council also defines The Brain of KM as a 'novella':
"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!)

Small but perfectly formed: three illustrated gems that deserve to be counted among the classics of New Zealand literature: genre bending pieces that blend fiction, poetry, fable, myth and satire. But what do we CALL them?
Gorilla/Guerilla by Elizabeth Smither, illustrated by Gregory O'Brien (Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 1986) A tiny book of illustrated poetry, 'a whimsical polemic in verse'.
The Brain of Katherine Mansfield by Bill Manhire, illustrated by Gregory O'Brien (Auckland University Press, 1988) Paperback, 60 pages. Author says 'novella'.
Cf. The Mijo Tree by Janet Frame, illustrated by Deidre Copeland (Penguin NZ 2013), Hardback, 101 pages. Publisher says 'novella'.
In March 2011 The Mijo Tree was referred to as 'an adult fable' in a press release in which Penguin announced a three-book deal with the Janet Frame estate. I prefer to call it a fable or 'a fairy story for adults' and nobody from the Frame estate ever suggested that it be called a novella. In fact we demurred initially, but quickly conceded that at over 5,000 words, and because of Frame's treatment of the manuscript, binding it in cardboard covers and tying it with string, and because of the astonishing nature and quality of the piece of writing itself, the term novella is not an unreasonable one. So we gave our permission when the publisher chose to call it a novella. (Not every decision a publisher - or their marketing wing - makes, originates from an author or their estate, and sometimes there is a fight: this is something English Lit academics seem to know very little about.) Penguin doubtless chose the descriptor 'novella' for the purposes of finding a marketing niche for an awkward genre of book. It looks - and reads - like a children's book, but it's not. It's high quality literary fiction, but it's not a novel. It has more substance than a short story. Janet Frame clearly wanted it to stand alone, and as it is so unique in her oeuvre, it deserves to.  'Novella' is a convenient description so that bookshops might have a clue who to pitch it at and where to put it on the shelves.
Exactly one year ago, Bill Manhire had a runaway best seller on the NZ Fiction market, The Moderately Hungry Maggot, "a children's book for adults", a parody on The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and a small but powerful biting satire on Kiwi society. I bought a couple of them myself. At $18 from the publisher (it cost more in the shops) they made superb Christmas presents.

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!!"
The Mijo Tree, at $25 retail, compares well as a gorgeous object also worth considering as a Christmas gift and a lusciously produced collectible, not to mention its cultural significance as yet another literary treasure from Janet Frame that didn't get past the gatekeepers.

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.")
I find it hard to believe that Bill Manhire, a poet himself, has been caught out complaining about the length of a literary text, especially from as great a poet as Janet Frame, without considering its worth, or even apparently reading it (along with the biographical essay at the back of the book which might have explained to him why this fable has been dignified as a separate publication). It seems particularly bizarre given that he himself has published extremely short prose texts complete with illustrations. 
Surely he was joking: I hope so!
I'm reminded that Janet Frame had something to say about reviewers: "So many gave a clear indication they hadn't read the book." (From an interview with Canadian journal The Whig-Standard Magazine, 1984)

*The Mijo Tree has had an extremely positive notice in NZ Lawyer, and the Otago Daily Times has generously reported on the well-attended launch party held in Dunedin recently. But the silence in the actual 'book world' is deafening. Manhire's tweet gives a clue perhaps to the attitudes behind that. It seems it's still fashionable to ignore Frame, and if you can't ignore her, you're invited to be snide.
** "Twitter Aunties is a term coined by @GoodeyeMcWoowoo for an assortment of loosely connected, literary-minded New Zealand women, and some men, who chatter away online." ~ Gemma Gracewood
*** "Big is beautiful."

**** Literary elder has an attack of the prescriptives (move over, CK Stead!):


Monday, November 18, 2013

Open for the summer season

56 Eden Street, Oamaru, New Zealand
The childhood home of Janet Frame
is open to the public for the summer season
November to April
Between 2pm - 4 pm every day
Phone: + 64 3 434 1656

"Janet Frame’s brilliant particularities" ~ The Rumpus

"Frame’s ability to distill an experience and sometimes an entire life into a few pages was remarkable. Her characters yearn, and ache, and are overtaken by wonder. She was an emotional cartographer of the highest order, one who deeply understood the inner workings of the human heart."

Mary Otis reviews Between My Father & the King for The Rumpus.

 US edition (Counterpoint Press)
"Frame wrote with great emotional acuity about family. She inhabited her child narrators with longing, fierceness, and complexity."
Australian edition (Wilkins Farago)

New Zealand edition (Penguin NZ)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"It’s one to read, keep close, and then read again, and again."

"It’s one to read, keep close, and then read again, and again."
~  NZ Lawyer (18 October 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!

Published: 23/10/2013
Format: Hardback, 96 pages
RRP: $25.00
Origin: New Zealand
Imprint: Penguin
Publisher: Penguin NZ

"Brilliant" ~ Kirkus Review

"Frame’s sentences are marvels, winding like narrow alleys through hill towns: They open spectacular vistas." ` Kirkus (1 Nov 2013)

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.


"her final chuckle from the grave" ~ Landfall Review
Prizewinning New Zealand novelist Kelly Ana Morey has reviewed Janet Frame's In the Memorial Room for the November issue of 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.

Let's do launch.

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.

Katie Haworth, Commissioning Editor at Penguin Group NZ, sent this message:
On behalf of Penguin New Zealand I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have been involved in bringing Janet Frame’s The Mijo Tree to publication. It is an honour for us to be the publisher of such a remarkable work of fiction and such a magnificent example of what makes Frame’s writing some of the richest New Zealand has ever produced.
The Mijo Tree is a fable of vast imaginative scope. In some ways you could almost be forgiven for thinking that the action taken place in a land not too far away from the home of Oscar Wilde’s selfish giant. But of course it’s more individual, more complex than such a comparison allows for. When I first read The Mijo Tree I knew it would never leave me. It’s somehow so terrible and so hopeful at the same time. Of course it’s by Janet Frame and it’s beautifully written. But to say that is hardly doing it justice. Every word is in harmony with those around it. Every seed and branch and gasp of air is imbued with life and vitality but also something more, something allegorical but something more. What that something might be always seems just out of reach and out of sight.
We knew that if we published this we had to make the book somehow feel as precious as the story itself and for this we have the wonderful Deidre Copeland to thank. I know how much thought and love Dee has put into every line of The Mijo Tree illustrations. Every time one arrived in my inbox at the Penguin offices we would gather round a computer screen and collectively gasp. Truly. Dee has perfectly captured the era, the mood, the characters. Visually to read this book is to be lost in an enchanted wood.
In all of this, of course, we must extend our most sincere thanks to the Janet Frame Literary Trust, who brought us The Mijo Tree (and In Her Own Words and Gorse is Not People) to start with. Especial thanks must be extended to Pamela Gordon who has offered her unfailing support and invaluable insights through every step of the process. Her afterword is essential reading for any lover of Frame.
And finally, the biggest thanks of all go to Janet Frame who sat down to write this sometime in 1957. We are very grateful that we are able to finally share such a story as this!


Vanda then continued:
I was delighted to be asked by Pamela Gordon and the Janet Frame Literary Trust to launch The Mijo Tree. I confess it is only in recent years I have discovered the works of Janet Frame. At high school while my friends were busy devouring her works and holding intense lunchtime conversations discussing her writing, I was busy devouring murder mysteries and crime. You are what you read, they say. I came to love Janet through her more recently published works, works introduced to the world through the hard work of the Trust, Towards Another Summer, In Her Own Words, Gorse is Not People and only very recently the glorious In The Memorial Room.

But every time I think I am getting to know her beautiful writing, her humour and wit, her social commentary, that I’m getting a handle on her incredible craft of the language, her ability to poke fun at herself, she throws me a surprise. And she has done it again with The Mijo Tree.

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. I feel enriched for having read it.
Congratulations must go to The Janet Frame Literary Trust and Penguin New Zealand for the exquisite care they have taken with this book. Pamela Gordon’s afterword provides many aha moments. The illustrations by Deidre Copeland are stunning and capture perfectly the undertones of the story. In fact everything about this book is beautiful, from the feel of the hardback cover as you stroke it, fingertips sensing the indentation of the type, and the silky thickness of the paper, to the way the edges are patterned by the illustrative borders. They have taken these wonderful words of Janet Frame and crafted them into a stunning object, something tactile, delicious and a book to be very proud of.
So it is with great pleasure that I launch Janet Frame’s The Mijo Tree into the world – that we release it into the wind and may it travel on warm currents and find the perfect place to rest and germinate in the minds and imaginations of its readers.  

Vanda Symon

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!

 To conclude the formal part of the launch I thanked everyone I could think of who had been a part of the coming to light of this, the last of the (complete) unpublished book manuscripts that Janet Frame lodged at the Hocken Library. It went rather like an Oscars acceptance speech:

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.

Thanks also to the past and present trustees of the Janet Frame Literary Trust especially Prof Lawrence Jones our former trustee who is with us tonight. And of course Denis Harold, my fellow Frame executor, who has been there every step of the way through all the work we have done in the nearly ten years since Janet died. Thank you Denis with all my heart - you are my rock, and Janet's faith in you was well placed.

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.

The Otago Daily Times gave the Mijo launch very good coverage:


The Mijo Tree is a haunting story about a little mijo seed who longs to live a life of independence, away from the valley of her birth, high on the hill overlooking the sea. She is swept off her feet by a lovesick wind and realises her dream. However this dream becomes a nightmare and she withers, but not before she produces a perfect purple blossom; the seed of new life and hope. It is a fable written by Janet Frame in 1957 on the Spanish island of Ibiza that she bound up with cardboard covers and string as she did with her finished manuscripts, but she never submitted for publication in her lifetime.

* Mijo is pronounced Mee-ho in the Spanish way.


Monday, November 4, 2013

100% Pure NZ Heroine

In the New Zealand literary world lately, we can scarcely talk about anything else: the magnificent achievement of Eleanor Catton in winning the Man Booker prize for her genre-extending novel The Luminaries.  And many of us are also admiring of some of the things Catton has said in interviews, in calling out aspects of sexism and bullying that she has observed.

To add to our Kiwi pride there's another shining star at the moment, connected to the NZ literary world through her mother, who is a respected New Zealand poet, and that's the genre-crossing pop prodigy Lorde, currently reigning at the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 with her catchy and intelligent song Royals (from the album Pure Heroine).

And - does this sound familiar? - many of us are also admiring of some of the things Lorde has said in interviews, calling out aspects of sexism that she has encountered in her 'industry'.

Congratulations and well done to both these brilliant, outspoken and admirable women. Long may they keep being role models both in their creative endeavours and in their refusing to be silenced.

From the point of view of Janet Frame's estate, we're pleased as punch that both Lorde and Catton have name checked that other local tall poppy, Janet Frame, in their various interviews.

Janet Frame also endured sexism and bullying, and although she triumphed over the attempt to completely silence her during her lifetime, some of her works are only now being published after her death:


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Please stop talking Frame down in the UK.

Dear Patricia Neville,
I see that you are to present this false proposition at an upcoming Janet Frame Colloquium in London:
“Frame’s work is overlooked in Britain.”
Back in August I wrote to you to protest several other similarly erroneous claims you made in the following passage you included in a book review:
“The main gripe, however, has to centre on the difficulty of getting hold of copies in the UK.  This has also been a problem with some of Frame’s novels since at least the 1980s; a source of frustration to Frame’s admirers.  Currently, Penguin NZ does not hold publishing rights for Frame’s work beyond New Zealand. These publishing arrangements help to deny Janet Frame an international readership, with the result that this fine writer, a major novelist, remains so little known outside her homeland.”
Here is a reminder of the TEN Frame TITLES currently in print in the UK, and I would appreciate if you devoted your five minutes to telling the gathering about these instead of misleading them by claiming that Frame's work is “hardly in print”.


Towards Another Summer (Virago)

Faces in the Water (Virago Modern Classic)

Living in the Maniototo (Virago Modern Classic)


An Angel at My Table (Virago Modern Classic omnibus)

This omnibus includes the three 3 volumes in one:

To the Is-Land

An Angel at My Table

The Envoy from Mirror City


The Lagoon and Other Stories (Bloomsbury Books)

 (available in two editions: a hardback classic and  a paperback)

The Daylight and the Dust: Selected Stories (Virago Modern Classic)

This is a selection of the best stories from the four volumes of stories Frame published in her lifetime:



Storms Will Tell: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books)

Contains the entire text of The Goose Bath and most of the poems from The Pocket Mirror (2 volumes in one)
These ten titles represent over half of Frame’s entire oeuvre. This is a fine achievement in the current financial environment and reflects the continuing acclaim for Janet Frame. What a shame you choose rather to belittle Frame’s reception and misrepresent her status as a well-regarded literary author whose works are always reviewed appreciatively in the major papers and journals. The Bloomsbury and Virago editions are being continually reprinted, some of the titles being reprinted twice last year and already twice this year.
I also made it clear to you that it was only in about 2005 that the wide range of Frame titles published by Women’s Press in the UK were taken off the market. They had been in print since the early 1980s – for over twenty years, regularly reprinted and there were also sublicensed mass market paperback editions in other editions such as Flamingo.
Misrepresenting Frame’s admirable career in the UK  is hardly going to encourage publishers!  I do wish you would not undervalue the number of works that are currently in print.

Apart from this wide range from all the genres Frame excelled in, all of her work is in print in the English language somewhere in the world, and is available in a new or used copy, for purchase from selected internet booksellers.
I wrote to you in August with the evidence that you had made several incorrect statements concerning Frame's publishing in the UK and around the world. That you appear to want to repeat these falsehoods despite the evidence provided, is very disappointing. In the past two years alone I have authorised the publication of roughly three dozen new Frame editions internationally: including German, Turkish, Finnish, Italian, Mexican, Korean, Swedish, Dutch, Czech, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian translations. Also, in 2012-13, in English, there have been three new fiction titles published in New Zealand and Australia; two of these have already reached the USA. None of these have been published in the UK yet but these things take time. The posthumous story collection only appeared in NZ a little over 12 months ago! You seem to have so little understanding of international rights sales negotiations, or the current perilous state of publishers of literary fiction.
As for your claim that “Frame’s work is overlooked in Britain”, here are some facts disproving this error:
Britain was where Frame first made her international reputation. Her first novel OWLS DO CRY, to which you seem to give pre-eminence, was not her breakthrough work. That was FACES IN THE WATER which makes most reputable lists of the top 500 novels in world history. OWLS is by no means her most important work nor even does it rate internationally in the top three of her major novels. It is a fine work, of course, and sold extremely well in the UK in the half dozen or so editions that have been sold there over the decades. In New Zealand OWLS DO CRY is of course a cultural icon, and is of great interest as Frame's first novel. It is currently in print in translation in several languages, including German, Swedish, and Turkish, and Text Publishing of Melbourne are bringing out a Classic edition next year in Australasia, so it is by no means neglected. There is also a fine Bolinda audio book and MP3 of this title available internationally. It was last in print in the UK less than ten years ago. One has to be realistic about publishing cycles. This fact is not unique to Frame.
Also, I sent you a link to some quite full information about Frame’s poetry being included in 2012 on the UK poetry archive and about the BBC radio adaptation of her autobiography that was broadcast earlier this year in the UK to huge interest and acclaim.
And further, Janet Frame is taught in the schools and universities of the UK. Her work is included in official exam papers and her stories and poems are anthologised regularly. Claire Bazin recently published a UK edition of a text book dedicated to Janet Frame. 1000 copies of Towards Another Summer were sold recently in the UK in one transaction to an educational district.
This is surely not what you call being “overlooked”. You have your head in the sand, I am afraid. There is a long-disseminated myth that “Frame’s work is little read and scarcely available”, that you seem to have swallowed whole. This was never true, as a moment’s thought and a look at the evidence would reveal. It is a misconception.
Again I would ask you, what other New Zealand author has a better representation in terms of range and longevity and library representation in the UK, and a few bestsellers and an extremely "long tail" too as with all the great authors? Have a look at – there is a huge showing of Frame titles there.
I do thank you for your obviously sincere desire to see Frame appreciated and distributed and promoted more in the UK, but I suggest that this kind of growth will only take place by recognising and affirming the reputation and coverage that she has already achieved.