Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Evans Effect

After Janet Frame's death in 2004, academic Patrick Evans showed what he really thought of Frame's life's work:

 "a survey of local libraries in the Christchurch area I made 25 years ago revealed that some titles were never taken out from one year’s end to the next, making posthumous media-generated interest in possibly unpublished work a joke – why hunger for unpublished writing when hardly anyone has read what’s already there?"

Patrick Evans 'Janet Frame: The "Frame" Effect', NZ Books, September 2004

 Please note carefully that Evans had to go back 25 YEARS to locate his 'evidence' for Frame's alleged unpopularity.

Speaking in 2004, Evans was resurrecting anecdotal 'evidence' from a 'survey' of suburban libraries that he claimed to have 'made' in 1979


Patrick Evans thus omitted from consideration the SIX books by Janet Frame that she published between 1979 and 1989. (Living in the Maniototo, The Carpathians, You Are Now Entering the Human Heart, To the Is-Land, An Angel at My Table, and The Envoy from Mirror City).

All of these books were bestsellers in NZ terms, and some of them were bestsellers internationally too. As had been several of the works published before 1979.

Seriously? How can the editor(s) of this magazine (NZ Books), when fact-checking the article, not have challenged Evans's non-scientific and patently fraudulent claim that "hardly anyone has read" the published works of Janet Frame, when Evans excluded 25 years of her career from the discussion?

In order to find a time when "some" (not all!) of Janet Frame's titles had not been taken out of some provincial libraries over a one-year period, Evans had to resort back to a moment one whole quarter of a century before her death.

By 1979 Frame had published nine novels, several volumes of stories, a book of poetry and a children's book, and one can accept that some of those fourteen titles were not checked out of 'local' Canterbury libraries in 1979. There had not been a new Janet Frame book since 1972, so most readers of literary fiction would have already read her earlier published work.

"some titles were never taken out from one year's end to the next"

Which ones were taken out though, I wonder?

I would bet good money on the ones that were taken out (after all, I now sign the contracts for translations and new editions in New Zealand and around the world): The Lagoon, Owls Do Cry, Faces in the Water, The Pocket Mirror, Scented Gardens For the Blind, and A State of Siege are among the most obvious and most popular titles  - all were bestsellers in New Zealand terms, and all (like all Frame's other titles) were published internationally. And all have been translated around the world to this day. Classics.

 But Evans is not going to spoil his malicious innuendo with any facts about the books that were taken home by readers between 1978 and 1979. That would get in the way of his aim of belittling the worth of Janet Frame's writing, a campaign he had already been embarked on for those 25 years since his falling out with Frame in 1978.

Evans goes on in his obituary (should we call it an oh-bitchery?) to explain the non-existent 'neglect' of Frame's writing:

"This neglect was understandable, given the difficulty and sheer gloominess of her fiction; I can recall reading her novels in order of publication during a grey Christchurch winter many years ago, and slowly subsiding into despair: what was the point of it all, why go on living?" (Patrick Evans, 2004)

Here's one more fraudulent gem of tall-poppy hatred from Evans 2004:

"But will we still “like Janet Frame” now we don’t have that living author to infuse an artificial life into the writing; will she be read by those of our descendants who read at all? I don’t think so, not if she has been so unread in her time."

"not if she has been so unread in her time" (Oh don't you mean, 'so unread' in 1978-1979, in suburban Christchurch, and not all her books were neglected either...?)

There is hardly any literary author in NZ who has outsold Janet Frame or been translated as widely over as many years, and whose work is as deeply valued both by academics and the general reader, either in 1979 or in 2004 or in 2015.

Evans has been hating on Frame for decades and the feeling was mutual. She regarded him as a stalker. To call his 'real person fiction' novel and play GIFTED a "love letter" is grievously misguided. It is a poison pen letter from an old enemy.

The article is archived on the NZ Books website, with the wrong date and the wrong title.

The title was actually: 'Janet Frame: The "Frame" Effect'

The date was actually September 2004 (not 2003). (Of course, because Frame didn't die until January 2004! Remember what I said before about how often the date of Janet Frame's death is rendered incorrectly by the NZ Lit Establishment?)

And the content of the article was wrong in just about every way as per usual with Patrick Evans when he gets on his Janet Frame bandwagon.

 He just makes it up.
Which was her own complaint to him in 1978:

"Perhaps you feel that inaccuracies of fact don’t matter?"
~ Janet Frame to Patrick Evans (1978)
(Quoted in Wrestling with the Angel: A Life of Janet Frame by Michael King)

 Unbelievably, from where I speak in 2015, the Patrick Evans article now known as 'The Frame Effect' has been quoted seriously all over Frame studies, in refereed journals, and it has even inspired the name of a work of Frame scholarship: The Frame Function by Jan Cronin.

Claims made by Patrick Evans in the obituary, such as that "hardly anyone has read" Janet Frame and that "the difficulty and sheer gloominess" of her work discourages all but the bravest of the Elect in the highest Ivory Towers, are unsubstantiated and fraudulent claims, and yet they are repeated and widely circulated to this day, out of ignorance, stupidity - or malice.

I call it the Evans Effect.

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