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

The XX Factor
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

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Technocracy
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.