Angel at My Table

Frame, Janet. Angel at My Table: An Autobiography: Volume Two. New York: George Braziller, 1984

Reason read: to continue the autobiography started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.

Angel at My Table being the second volume in Janet Frame’s autobiography, covers her unwillingness to become a teacher, a myriad of mental health struggles, and Frame’s continued desire to impress people as a “true” poet. Despite being at the University for a teaching career Frame was dead set against becoming an educator. When it came time for her to be observed in the classroom she simply excused herself and walked out, never to return again. All she wanted to do was write and it was her ability to do so that ultimately saved her. Scheduled to have an lobotomy, her book, The Lagoon, a volume of short stories, was published just in time for her to receive a stay of operation. From there Frame floundered trying to make a living until she met Frank Sargeson. As a fellow writer he was able to develop a partnership and mentorship that ultimately shaped Frame’s future. At the end of Angel at My Table we leave Frame as she is ready to embark on a new journey; leaving New Zealand for the first time.

Lines to like, “Nola suffered from asthma and the complication of being in a family of brilliant beautiful people” (p 110) and “There is a freedom born for the acknowledgement of greatness in literature, as if one gave away what one desired to keep, and in giving, there is new space cleared for growth, an onrush of a new season beneath a secret sun” (p 153).

Author fact: When Frame died obituaries called her New Zealand’s “best known but least public” writer.

Book trivia: Angel at My Table was made into a movie in 1990, starring Kerry Fox.

Nancy said: Not much. She just mentioned that Frame’s second book was made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Kiwis Forever!: New Zealand in Print” (p 123).


April is Over

One of my all time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs is “The Painted Desert” off the album, Our Time in Eden. If you have never heard it, the premise is simple. A couple is trying to have a long distance relationship. Or…one of them is anyway…While one is off in the Southwest, the other waits patiently for the time when he? she? can join the other. But, soon the patience tarnishes and the one left behind find themselves pleading, “I wanted to be there by May at the latest time. Isn’t that the plan we had or have you changed your mind? I haven’t heard a word from you since Phoenix or Tuscon. April is over. Can you tell how long before I can be there?” The underlying poison is that the partner has moved on and the answer to the question is “never.” How ironic.

Having said all that, April IS over. As far as the run is concerned, I begrudgingly ran a half mara and a 10k and despite not training for either, I am pleased with both races.
And I read a fair amount of books:

Fiction:

  • Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell

Nonfiction:

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  • The Corner: a Year in the life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
  • The Evolution of Everyday Objects by Henry Petroski
  • Bogey Man by George Plimpton
  • To the Is-Land: an Autobiography by Janet Frame

Series continuations:

  • Charmed by Nora Roberts
  • The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor

Poetry:

  • “Unexplorer” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz

Early Review:

  • Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe

To the Is-Land

Frame, Janet. To the Is-Land. New York: George Braziller, 1982.

Reason read: Anzac Day in New Zealand is celebrated in April. Janet Frame was born in New Zealand.

Janet Frame had written at least ten novels and a series of poetry over the course of her career before it seemed the natural next step to tell her autobiography. Her life story gave perspective to the fiction she had been writing for so many years. Why else does one assume his or her life story would be interesting to someone else, a complete stranger, if only to explain their actions or, in Frame’s case, her craft? To the Is-Land starts when Frame is a very young child in Dunedin, New Zealand. She recounts the trials and tribulations of growing up poor and longing to fit in. She found solace in writing and at the the end of To the Is-Land a poet starts to emerge.

As an aside, if you know my blogs you know I love to make connections to Natalie Merchant, no matter how far fetched. This time I came across a song Frame’s father used to sing, “Come for a trip in my airship…” Of course, Natalie sang a version of that for Stay Awake, a tribute to Disney music.

Quotes I thought worth mentioning, “I don’t attempt to search for the commonplace origins of such a feeling” (p 23), and only a few of you will get why this one is so funny, “””It could be his spine,” someone said, adding that they knew someone who’d been miraculously cured by a chiropractor who insisted that the answer was always in the spine” (p 99).

Author fact: Janet Frame started her career as a teacher. She only spent one year as an educator before deciding to become a writer. That takes guts!

Book trivia: To the Is-Land is part one of Frame’s autobiography and does not include any photography. Boo. If anything, I would have loved seeing the New Zealand landscape.

Nancy said: Janet Frame “is best known for her three-volume autobiography” (p 124).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Kiwis Forever!: New Zealand in Print” (p 123).


Tu

Grace, Patricia. Tu. University of Hawaii Press, 2004.

Reason read: New Zealand was discovered in December

The novel Tu opens and closes with a letter. New Zealander Tu Hokowhitu-a-Tu owes an explanation to his niece and nephew, Rimini and Benedict. Sandwiched between the letters there are Tu’s journals interspersed with third person flashbacks. In his journals Tu tries to tackle the war in his own words. The war everyone is signing up for. World War II. In flashbacks we learn Big Brother Pita thought he should stay home to care for his family until the fighting pulls him in and seesm to be the only way out. Pita follows feisty Brother Rangi, already wild with battle. Left behind is little Te Hokowhitu-a-Tu. Too-young-to-go-to-war Tu, but there’s no place he would rather be. Maybe because of his brothers? He wants to be useful. He wants to get away. Through his journals he implies enlistment means freedom and despite being underage he signs up for the Maori Battalion.
When it is all said and done, and the war is over(sorry, accidental spoiler alert), there is a poignant moment when Tu asks himself who will he be now that the war is finished and there is no more fighting. Where is his place in life?

I found it interesting that all three brothers would want to go into battle after seeing what war did to their father. Coming back from World War I and wracked by post traumatic stress disorder, their father at times was a wild and raging man; given to fits of insanity and violence.

Interesting to note: New Zealand’s June had 31 days back in 1943.

A quote that got me, “…I’ve decided I’ll write only when there are enough words in my head to create a flow to paper through a warmed up pen” (p 23). How many times have I said that same thing? Another quote, “When you see a man fall you’re not sure whether or not it was your bullet or someone else’s that dropped him, so his death does not feel so real to you” (p 82). Two more: “Perhaps there’s an in-between state where ghosts walk in and out of you, or where you could be your own ghost coming and going” (p 180), and “Reading intrudes on thought and takes a man away from so much self-pity” (p 238).

Author fact: Grace is not Patricia’s given last name. But, that’s not the interesting fact. She was inspired to write Tu by her Maori father’s involvement in World War II. He went to fight for the very country that was trying to control his.

Book trivia: Tu won the Montana New Zealand Book Award.

Nancy said: “…beautifully written and depressing…” (p 125). I would have to agree.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Kwikis Forever!: New Zealand” (p 125).


Jingle the Books

December is going to be a crazy month. I need to run 93  miles. I will be hosting my in-law’s Holiday party for the first time. I’m going to the Christmas Eve Patriots Game. What else? Oh. The books!

Nonfiction:

  • Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming ~ in honor of December being the best time to visit Peru
  • Rainbow’s End by Lauren St. John ~ in honor of Shangani Day in Rhodesia.
  • Paul Revere and the World He Lived in by Esther Forbes ~ in honor of Revere’s birth month (I’m guessing since he was baptized on January first.)
  • On the Ocean by Pytheas (translated by Christina Horst Roseman) ~ in honor of finally finding a copy of this book!
  • Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser ~ in honor of Rome’s Saturnalia Solstice.
  • Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre ~ in honor of December being the best time to visit India.

Fiction:

  • Tu by Patricia Grace ~ in honor of New Zealand being discovered in December.

Series:

  • Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright ~ in honor of finishing the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month.

Early Review:

  • Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham ~ for LibraryThing