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Wrestling with the Angel: A Life of Janet Frame Paperback – March 25, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; English Language edition (March 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158243185X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582431857
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,862,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Remarkable and resilient, Janet Frame is New Zealand's most accomplished writer. She's the author of 11 novels, dozens of poems and stories and three volumes of autobiography (including the work that inspired Jane Campion's film An Angel at My Table). Now in her 70s and having suffered a stroke, she is largely silent. In this rigorously researched authorized biography, fellow New Zealander King (Death of a Rainbow Warrior) looks back over Frame's anguished life. At her request, the bookAwhich draws from previously unavailable personal documentsAlacks critical literary analysis (although King does note that her writing conveys the "sense that reality itself is a fiction, and one's grasp on it no more than preposterous pretense and pretension"). But the focus here is not on Frame's works; instead, King describes her life as wordsmith and survivor. In effect two books, the first half of Wrestling with the Angel is a dramatic account of Frame's struggle to survive a painful and emotionally troubled life (two of her sisters drowned, and she attempted suicide) and to write. King details Frame's early lifeAher travels into and out of psychiatric hospitals (where her anxiety neuroses were dangerously misdiagnosed as schizophreniaAshe narrowly escaped a lobotomy)Aas well as the writing career she began in her mid-30s. In the anticlimactic second half of the book, he describes Frame's succ?s d'estime: the literary prizes she won, the money troubles that followed and her compulsive moving from place to place (five times in one two-year period), in New Zealand and abroad, which testified to the persistence of her unexorcised anxieties. King's biography is a competent account of an unusual lifeAthough no replacement for Frame's autobiography. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

"The Frame sisters thought of themselves as Bront s: because they held, by right, 'silk purses' of words; and because their family was an anvil on which disasters fell." Such tragediesDpoverty, an epileptic, alcoholic brother, two sisters who died of heart failure while swimming, a third sister misdiagnosed a schizophrenic and hospitalized for almost ten yearsDmarked the early life of Janet Frame, New Zealand's greatest modern writer. With Frame's cooperation, fellow New Zealander King (Death of a Rainbow Warrior) has written a sympathetic and comprehensive biography, incorporating Frame's diaries, hospital records, and letters as well as quoting extensively from her memoirs (later adapted by Jane Campion into her marvelous film, Angel at My Table). Frame's story makes for dramatic and fascinating reading (she narrowly avoided a lobotomy when her first short story collection won a prize); unfortunately, there is very little analysis of how Frame transformed these painful events into literary works of great beauty and originality. This is not quite King's fault as Frame requested that he not critique her work. Still, King does U.S. readers a great service by calling attention to a unique writer who should be better appreciated here. For larger academic and public library literature collections.DWilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By C. A. Spencer on October 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
At first sight this is a dauntingly long book of 500 pages plus. However, even after reading a few pages, one is quickly drawn into an amazinly frank and totally engrossingly private "interview" with a remarkable writer. There is a vast amount of private detail of the emotional and intellecual life ot Janet Frame. Yet with all the detail, one never has the impression of gratuitious intrusion. The reader is led on by the depth of the feeling and the necessity to reveal all the amazing diversity of this writer. Michael King exposes the rawness and richness of a literary genius. Facts of childhood and young passion satisfy the voyeur. The devastating experince of primitive psychology and brutal mental health treatment give way to her emotional awakening in Europe, far from the strait-jacket of the censure of a puritanical and uncomprehending New Zealand public. This book offers far more than the superficial film of Janet Frame's early life, scarrred by the malady of "being different." The book's supreme achievement is that it allows the reader to understand the psyche of the writer, and thereby, allow a far richer and more rewarding understanding of a truly superb writer. Any reader of this book will gain not only a closer relationship with the literary figure but also, a more informed knowledge of a New Zealand writer who belongs to a world fraternity. Her years in America at Yaddo and her acceptance into an esoteric literary group let the reader share a rare experience of intimacy and brilliance. Michael King is a direct writer. He is clear and direct. There is no pretence of showmanship or precious explanation. This book is a must for those interested in the life and writing of an author who overcomes all obstacles for the sake of true genius.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Galen on November 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This enthusiastic and respectful biography accomplishes so much. Michael King's affection and deep understanding of Janet Frame - and her cooperation with him - inform this work. She is a very private public figure. In this book one gets to know her quite well, with so sense that her privacy has been compromised. One guesses that is due to King's considerable talent for people as well as for biography.
King gets the emotional tenor of events just right. He looks into Frame's entire life and work - and focusses on the little things along with the big picture - down to mentioning (for example) that Frame attended one of many dinners in her honor in Wellington, NZ - wearing a formal dress that she had bought for $1.50 from a Salvation Army shop. It's a detail that he could have left out, but that Frame herself would have included. I was grateful for details, for the inclusion of Frame's considerable and insightful analyses (often only a few words long!) of the works of her writing peers, and liberal use of quotations. This biography manages to be comprehensive, graceful, and not wholly uncritical - although clearly and reasonably charmed by its subject. In addition there are great photographs and notes.
Admirers of Janet Frame and of the art and craft of biography will like this book very much.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
King takes on no small feat in writing the biography of an author Time magazine once called "the greatest writer of this century" and one who has remained so secluded and private throughout her career. A facinating and rewarding book on an amazing literary talent.
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