Friday, June 27, 2008

In the Frame

I am a late comer to the writings of Janet Frame.
I recall, when at high school, my friends devouring Janet Frame's books and raving about them. At that time I was too busy devouring Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Terry Brooks and Elizabeth Peters but courtesy of said friends enjoyment of a good book discussion, I learned quite a lot about her background.

So it is at this veritable age (that I'm not about to disclose) that I have finally read my first Janet Frame book.

I attended a lovely book launch for Towards Another Summer at the Hocken Library and indulged a copy of the hardback edition (Number 728 of 750), listened to the anecdotes about Janet, how the Janet Frame Literary Trust went about publishing this work, which Janet didn't want published until after her death, and some of the background to this book.

Still, I was a little unsure of what to expect.

I was surprised, and in the best possible way:

Janet's amazing use of language. It's richness and vibrancy, and ability to convey the mood.

The unexpected humour. This excerpt a particular favourite:

"There seemed nowhere to escape from the snowfilled sootfilled wind. It blew upon their skin as if their outer layer of skin had been peeled away leaving a raw rasping wound spread over their body. They struggled along the grey streets in a bizarre enactment of an Arctic expedition which could have been recorded in the usual dramatic diary - 'Supply of warmth diminishing; hope to reach library and market by five-thirty; hopes failing...' Grace would not have been surprised if Philip had suddenly stopped and said, with a stricken look on his face, 'I'm going a while. I may be some time...'

Frame captured so well the excruciating social discomfort experienced by Grace in this weekend away from home, and the drift of her mind. I ached for her.

I loved it and can now declare myself a Janet Frame convert.

So if anyone would care to recommend their favourite Janet Frame book, I'm on the lookout for the next one to read.

(Excerpt and photograph reproduced with the kind permission of the Janet Frame Literary Trust.)


Mary McCallum said...

Owls do Cry -- I read it when I was a teenager and I was deeply excited by the careful,layered resonating language that paradoxically seemed to escape its author and do something altogether new and unsettling. It mesmerised me. I now own a first edition of this novel now.

Vanda Symon said...

Thanks Mary. Is your beloved first edition the one with the amazing Dennis Beytagh cover? (Covet, covet)

Mary McCallum said...

The very one.