Friday, April 5, 2013

Good and Cheap (Books)! Day 4

A week or two ago, Liz picked me up for a big night out. I think we went to a new dance club for some late night debauchery. It's also possible we went to the Olive Garden for a $7 meal because I had a coupon that was about to expire. We were probably home by 6:30.

My point is, when I got into the car I noticed Liz had a copy of Janet Frame: An Autobiography. I’ve never seen that book anywhere but my own bookshelf,  so I was really surprised. I said, “Now two people in this country own this book!” But I was also thinking, my God we’re soulmates. I kept those thoughts on the inside because it makes poor Lizzy terribly uncomfortable when I insist that we were meant to live and die together. Especially die together. Yeah, it makes her uncomfortable.

Janet Frame: An Autobiography is actually a collection of three memoirs, To the Is-land, An Angel at My Table, and The Envoy from Mirror City. And full disclosure: I didn’t happen upon Frame’s work at a bookstore. I saw the Jane Campion film named for her middle memoir, An Angel at My Table. Jane Campion wasn’t that well known yet either so how in the world did I happen upon that film? Well Roger Ebert said that I should go (officially he just raved about it to the general public, but I took his film reviews personally). See, all roads lead to Ebert this week.

Janet Frame had a case of the crazies. Two of Frame’s sisters drown when she was a young girl, in addition to growing up with a brother who suffered violent seizures – her father also suffered from being, well, just violent. Frame attempted suicide while in her twenties and then spent many years in and out of mental hospitals that were, as you can imagine any mental hospital in the 40’s and 50’s were, uh, rough.

She was “diagnosed” with schizophrenia, which was treated with electric shock and the occasional lobotomy. She was in fact scheduled for a lobotomy when her short story collection won a prestigious literary prize. She did what most of us would do if we were scheduled for a lobotomy the same week we won a literary prize…we rescheduled it indefinitely.

Frame went on to write many books of poetry, stories, and novels. She also found a therapist who correctly diagnosed her with depression and successfully treated her sans poking around her damn brain. She dedicated many books to him, and rightfully so.

Rest assured, more Frame books are coming down the pike as they always do with dead writers…they find more books. Found under table legs, behind bookcases, hidden in ceiling panels, in the dog’s bed, and even under a letter that says, “Please for the love of god, don’t ever ever publish these pages.” They all get published. 

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