Book of the Week: "Prizes: The Selected Stories of Janet Frame"

What Women Really Think
Dec. 11 2009 6:00 PM

Book of the Week: "Prizes: The Selected Stories of Janet Frame"

Janet Frame was scheduled for a lobotomy when her first collection of short stories won a prestigious New Zealand literary award in 1952. Fortunately, the superintendent of the psychiatric hospital where she was a patient had a literary bent. When he heard about the Frame's win, he cancelled the operation. Frame's writing literally saved her.

Prizes: The Selected Stories of Janet Frame is a survey of Frame's short fiction, including stories from that first collection, The Lagoon , and three subsequent collections, along with four stories never previously collected. Frame, the subject of Jane Campion's 1990 biopic An Angel at my Table , occupies herself mainly with the frustrating reality of how little we can know of others' thoughts and how much we assume. Many of her characters end up emotionally isolated because they have never exchanged childhood intuition and honesty for adult subterfuge. Those who do make that bargain are left to repeat platitudes that will never reassure them: "They were intelligent, they understood each other." Frame's characters often equate material comfort with emotional safety-one story is titled "Insulation."

Advertisement

For being written as early as the '50s, these tales have uncanny currency: The title story explores the emotional emptiness of the aptocratic life . Several young protagonists chafe under their parents' attempts to name their talents and interests and their dependence on their children's achievements as a primary source of self-esteem. And Frame describes those parents with biting insight and unexpected, intimately observed details that suggest she knows whereof she speaks.

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Use Facebook to Reconnect With Old Friends, Share Photos, and Serve People With Legal Papers

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM Why Is Autumn the Only Season With Two Names?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?