Sunday, December 31, 2017

Janet Frame's Letters to Bill Brown: LANDFALL review

If you haven't already seen it, check out David Herkt's excellent review of Jay to Bee for Landfall Online. David Herkt is one of New Zealand's best contemporary reviewers and 'Private Admissions Between Friends' is a thoughtful and important review that will stand on the record awaiting a conversation that just is not happening yet. One day 'NZ Lit' will stir itself from its love affair with the mythical/romantic 'Janet', in their eyes an eternal hospital patient, and come around to acknowledging the humanity and complexity - and power - of the real author Frame, acerbic wit and holder of two doctorates.
Herkt rightly notes that JAY TO BEE "is a correspondence which provides an intimate, extended perspective on Frame that exists nowhere else."
"Frame’s observing eye is sharp, sometimes hard, but never less than illuminating. She has wide sympathies but she is no push-over. Her sense of amusement is frequently palpable. Her reflections upon herself are knowing, sometimes engagingly exasperated, but sure. Jay to Bee brings the reader closer to her than ever before. There is no attendant biographer or any sense of performing for a wide public. These letters are private admissions between friends, upon which it is a privilege to intrude.

In these letters to Brown, Frame’s opinions of New Zealand culture, both general and literary, delineate an era. She might refer to New Zealand as ‘a barren country for souls’, but her letters from a nation and a life where, she repeatedly insists, nothing seems to happen, demonstrate the breadth of her perceptions, the fertility of her own personality, her human engagement as a writer and her skill of communication. To read them is to be seduced, beguiled, delighted, informed and impressed."

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