Books in brief

By Philip Matthews In Uncategorized

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27th August, 2005 Leave a Comment

REFRAMING: Random House’s Janet Frame re-issue project – launched last year with a new version of 1951’s The Lagoon and Other Stories – continues with, this month, The Carpathians (Vintage, $29.95), and, next month, a repackaging in one volume of Faces in the Water and The Edge of the Alphabet (Vintage, $34.95). The Carpathians, Frame’s last novel, was published in 1988; a tricky, postmodern novel, it got mixed reviews here. “There was considerable readerly puzzlement”, as Lawrence Jones puts it in his introduction. “Perhaps in the present literary context more readers will be able to recognise and accept Frame’s postmodern devices.” In other Frame news, this week – on her birthday, August 28 – the Janet Frame Literary Trust will announce the recipients of the first Janet Frame Literary Awards ($10,000 each to three writers, and one has already been revealed as Bill Manhire). There should also be news about plans for 56 Eden St, Oamaru – Frame’s childhood home.

THE FRENCH CONNECTIONS: Of course, Frame features – along with nearly everyone who ever picked up a pen in New Zealand – in The Colour of Distance (VUP, $34.95), a collection of New Zealand writing about France and, a smaller category this, French writing about New Zealand. Naturally, much of this book stems from the writers’ residencies in Menton and the spirit of Katherine Mansfield is often invoked, explicitly or implicitly. The Frame entry, from which the book’s title comes, is an excerpt from Living in the Maniototo – in it, she re-imagines Mansfield as Margaret Rose Hurndell and describes the writing room. “The air of desolation and neglect increased: the chill, of the wind and of the spirit, intensified and there was the kind of peace that one feels walking among the dead and listening, as the dead may, at a great distance from the world and its movement and noise.” But not great enough: Frame, famous for her ongoing search for quieter and quieter places, complained about the helicopter noise above the Mansfield Room and the shabby condition of the room itself (she wasn’t alone in this). Frame was there in 1974. Michael King’s year was 1976; his hilarious short essay is about meeting Patrick White (“Of course the French don’t invite you into their homes,” White told King. “You’re a single man. They imagine you’d want to screw their wife and daughter. And if you didn’t, they’d think there was something wrong with you. And when they do ask you, it’s probably because they want you to …”). The book is edited by Jenny Bornholdt and Gregory O’Brien, whose turn it was in 2002.

27th August, 2005 Leave a Comment

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