In the Memorial Room: A Novelby Janet Frame
Harry Gill, a moderately successful writer of historical fiction, has been awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowshipa ‘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 suitableit has no electricity or… See more details below
Harry Gill, a moderately successful writer of historical fiction, has been awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowshipa ‘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 suitableit 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Janet Frame’s previously unpublished novel draws on her own experiences in Menton, France as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow.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, andin the best tradition of Framea fascinating exploration of the complexity and the beauty of language.
"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
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 For this reason, Frame insisted the book not be published until after her death.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
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.
- Counterpoint Press
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- 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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