In the Memorial Room: A Novel

In the Memorial Room: A Novel

by Janet Frame
     
 

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Harry Gill, a moderately successful writer of historical fiction, has been awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship—a ‘living memorial’ to the poet, Margaret Rose Hurndell. He arrives in the small French village of Menton, where Hurndell once lived and worked, to write. But the Memorial Room is not suitable—it has no electricity or…  See more details below

Overview


Harry Gill, a moderately successful writer of historical fiction, has been awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship—a ‘living memorial’ to the poet, Margaret Rose Hurndell. He arrives in the small French village of Menton, where Hurndell once lived and worked, to write. But the Memorial Room is not suitable—it has no electricity or water. Hurndell never wrote here, though it is expected of Harry.

Janet Frame’s previously unpublished novel draws on her own experiences in Menton, France as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow. It is a wonderful social satire, a send-up of the cult of the dead author, and—in the best tradition of Frame—a fascinating exploration of the complexity and the beauty of language.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Scott Bradfield
This short, funny and often beautifully written novel…provides an excellent occasion for remembering the weird wisdom and genuine talent of Janet Frame…In the Memorial Room is filled with terrifyingly beautiful reflections on how writing books (and even reading them) can feel like digging your own grave. It also serves as a sly warning to those of us who obsessively cherish the works of dead writers—even writers as good as Janet Frame. Watch out! The death you memorialize may well be your own.
Publishers Weekly
Prolific New Zealander Frame (An Angel at My Table) wrote this novel in 1974, but embargoed publication during her lifetime. Frame draws on her time in Menton, France, as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow, in portraying historical fiction writer Harry Gill’s travails after being awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship. The award, given in honor of the (fictional) poet Margaret Rose Hurndell, requires him to travel to Menton, where Hurndell once lived. Harry finds himself struggling to turn his good fortune into productivity. He is expected to do his writing in the dilapidated Rose Hurndell Memorial Room, but finds himself unable to complete anything there. Hurndell’s admirers interrupt Harry regularly, and the entire town seems more interested in the idea of having a writer around than in the work itself. While Hurndell’s memory is complacently worshipped, Harry struggles with his eyesight and his general invisibility among the townspeople. In her signature eclectic style, Frame has crafted both a canny commentary on literary fame and hero worship and a heartfelt meditation on what it means to be a writer. (Dec.)
From the Publisher

"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."—Scott Bradfield, The New York Times, Sunday Book Review

"[T]his book is marvelous experimental fiction…Frame’s sentences are marvels, winding like narrow alleys through hill towns: They open spectacular vistas…Brilliant."—Kirkus, Starred Review

"[T]he story is also a beautifully crafted artistic and philosophical creation that explores the nature of communication and exposes Frame’s love of language…this is a terrific introduction to an original writer who deserves her own serious league of fans. Recommended for all fiction collections."—Library Journal

Library Journal
11/01/2013
One of New Zealand's most distinguished writers, Frame (1924–2004) draws upon her own experiences living in Menton, France, to satirize the excessive devotion to or fetishizing of famous authors in this posthumously published novel. Written in 1974, the work is a social commentary and comedy about the fandom surrounding deceased poet Margaret Rose Hurndell, who is meant to represent New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923). For this reason, Frame insisted the book not be published until after her death. The experiences of protagonist Harry Gill, a historical fiction writer, parallel the time Frame spent as a Mansfield Fellow in 1973. Gill's keen observations of the well-intentioned but annoying Hurndell devotees are thoroughly enjoyable, cutting-edge social satire. However, the story is also a beautifully crafted artistic and philosophical creation that explores the nature of communication and exposes Frame's love of language. VERDICT The author's literary achievements may not be familiar to American readers, and this is a terrific introduction to an original writer who deserves her own serious league of fans. Recommended for all fiction collections.—Faye Chadwell, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-10-20
A strange, resonant, Nabokov-ian novel about the plight of Harry Gill, a New Zealand writer on a six-month fellowship in France, struggling to write his first imaginative fiction. Works by Frame (1924-2004), the New Zealand novelist and autobiographer, continue to appear. Never published during her lifetime, this book is marvelous experimental fiction. Up until now, Harry (his name comes from the title of a William Wordsworth poem) has written historical novels. Receiving the Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship, and admitting he is not funny or adventurous, he sets out to write a "comic novel in the picaresque tradition." In fact, he is so shy and compliant as to be almost anonymous. Arriving in Menton, expatriates besiege him; they want to possess the recipient of their little fellowship, created to honor a dead writer who worked in the town. The book Harry writes is this one, a journal about trying to find peace and quiet and time to write a book, a comedy of errors both physical and metaphysical. The local doctor Harry visits, afraid that he is going blind and, again, when he goes deaf, is Dr. Rumor. The good doctor opines that Harry's symptoms are a species of hysteria: He fears going blind because he's afraid he is invisible. The humor is bone-dry and crackling. Harry, observing his predicament: "One does not always quote fiction as a good example for life but, I told myself, I would never have let this happen in fiction--a man going blind who instead becomes deaf." Frame's sentences are marvels, winding like narrow alleys through hill towns: They open spectacular vistas. Brilliant.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781619021754
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
12/10/2013
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
1,416,742
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author


Janet Frame is one of New Zealand’s greatest writers. Born in Dunedin in 1924, she published twenty-one books in her lifetime and several posthumously. Her autobiographical work An Angel at My Table was made into a television series by Jane Campion in 1990. Janet Frame died in 2004.

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