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Literary Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
#11  Bookworm_Girl 06-27-2020, 10:49 PM
Quote sun surfer
I agree that she's doing a great job with the narration. This is a literary book with a capital L and as you say she's doing a really good job with the poetic quality of the more esoteric chapters, and in the more straightforward chapters she does a good job with the different characters' voices.

It does make me think I should listen to more read poetry whether in audiobooks or even just something like youtube videos of individual poems. I haven't really since way back in school, and I've been meaning to read more poetry but actually reading an entire book of it can be intimidating.
Agreed, this book is definitely Literature! Today I listened to the audio of some of the stream of consciousness sections with the book in front of me at the same time. It helped to connect the text with spoken words. My understanding of poetry is certainly enhanced with narration.
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#12  sun surfer 06-30-2020, 02:00 AM
Quote AnotherCat
I finished the book some days ago, the end of voting was a convenient time for me to start a new one and I found too that the prose flowed by pretty fast. I have a general low opinion of most NZ fiction - for now that comment may be taken for this book as being a leading or misleading one .

What I can say for now though is that from my local position I found all the events, general depictions of the culture, colloquialisms, etc. as being correct and believable even if not commonplace, but perhaps one or two events seeming to be passed quickly over.
Thanks; it's interesting hearing the thoughts on a book and its depictions of the country by someone from that country.

Though I'm not to halfway yet, I can already tell I really like Frame as a writer and feel she should probably be more famous outside of NZ.

I think this is the very first Kiwi book I've ever read if I'm not mistaken. I've seen a number of films and series from or set there, including the aforementioned Hunt, as well as The Piano (one of my all-time favourites), The Quiet Earth (also one of my all-time faves), Top of the Lake, What We Do in the Shadows, Flight of the Conchords (not set there but very NZ influenced with Kiwi stars). All were great and I'd recommend any of them, but somehow I've never read a book from the country until now.
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#13  sun surfer 06-30-2020, 02:08 AM
Quote Bookworm_Girl
Here was my interpretation of your spoiler.

Spoiler Warning below






I think it was more of a pit with fire in it. She accidentally tripped. She wasn't paying attention because she had seen her friend's father and was surprised.
Ah, okay, thanks. It was described so sparsely that I wondered if it was based on something from her past and it was too painful for her to write in more detail, or if she simply chose not to spend much time on the horror of the moment.
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#14  Bookworm_Girl 06-30-2020, 02:36 AM
Quote sun surfer
I think this is the very first Kiwi book I've ever read if I'm not mistaken. I've seen a number of films and series from or set there, including the aforementioned Hunt, as well as The Piano (one of my all-time favourites), The Quiet Earth (also one of my all-time faves), Top of the Lake, What We Do in the Shadows, Flight of the Conchords (not set there but very NZ influenced with Kiwi stars). All were great and I'd recommend any of them, but somehow I've never read a book from the country until now.
Thanks for the recommendations. I’m more than halfway finished now. I have just started the Daphne section.
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#15  Bookworm_Girl 06-30-2020, 02:45 AM
I had never heard of a milk bar before. My husband said they had dairy bars where he grew up.

It is also interesting learning about the different foods like pikelets. After looking at pictures and the recipe they sound tasty and similar to pancakes.
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#16  sun surfer 06-30-2020, 03:48 AM
It sounds like we're reading it almost in tandem. I just passed 50%.

I read A Clockwork Orange not too long ago so the milk bar reminded me of that! But I was thinking here it was probably a bar for milkshakes, like a soda shop?

As for pikelets, I'm ashamed to say I thought maybe it was some type of little fish cakes made with pike, lol. I'm glad your post set me right.
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#17  AnotherCat 06-30-2020, 06:41 PM
Quote sun surfer
...But I was thinking here it was probably a bar for milkshakes, like a soda shop?...
That is exactly correct. The novel was set in the 1940's but written in the 1950's - "milk bar" was certainly a very familiar term used here in the 1950s, familiar due to they being a hangout of the "Teddy Boys" subculture (the same as the British one) started in the early 1950's. I don't know if it was a common term in the 1940s though. As far as I know they don't exist anymore, I certainly haven't heard the term used for a long time, and its use may have been a NZ thing as the "milk bars" in England and Australia are not the same thing.

People are probably far enough along in reading for me to mention the fire. Small town "rubbish dumps" were commonly used to fill small gullies in hilly districts (as in the town I grew up in) or for filling against sloping ground, earth being pushed over the accumulated rubbish once a day, or week, or whenever (farmers did the same or dug pits if ground was not hilly). They were insecure with no one in attendance managing them and usually sported many fires burning in them, sometimes getting well out of hand with the local "fire brigade" having to attend. So while I also thought the accident was covered fleetingly by Frame it did not seem improbable.

It is quite possible she built the story from recall of a real life accident, I recall quite recently a young child getting badly burnt falling into a farm "rubbish pit" which was burning but with adults there to rescue it (it is illegal to burn rubbish in urban areas though). Most city and larger town "rubbish dumps" such as our own town's are well managed and secure with sorting of rubbish, recycling, composting, etc., but I don't know the current situation in small towns. However, a little over only 20 years back we lived for a short time while doing an assignment in a very small town (around 600 pop.) close to Oamaru which is the book's rough setting location (hence "Waimaru"), the small town's "rubbish dump" was still of the insecure type, fires burning most days (I believe set by members of the public), etc.
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#18  Bookworm_Girl 06-30-2020, 08:48 PM
Quote sun surfer
As for pikelets, I'm ashamed to say I thought maybe it was some type of little fish cakes made with pike, lol. I'm glad your post set me right.
So did I until I searched on it!
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#19  Bookworm_Girl 06-30-2020, 09:00 PM
Thanks for the explanation, AnotherCat!

Can you please help me understand the references between north and south? Are they referring to the North and South Islands, or are they referring to within the South Island? I think Waimaru in the novel is representative of the South Island coastal city of Oamaru where Frame lived.
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#20  AnotherCat 06-30-2020, 10:47 PM
Quote Bookworm_Girl
Thanks for the explanation, AnotherCat!

Can you please help me understand the references between north and south? Are they referring to the North and South Islands, or are they referring to within the South Island? I think Waimaru in the novel is representative of the South Island coastal city of Oamaru where Frame lived.
Yes, I took Waimaru as being an allusion to Oamaru. North and south means north and south from there in South Island, not the North and South Islands (although Toby does go "north" to Wellington in the North Island). Being a long narrow country it is not uncommon to hear people talk of heading north or south (but not very common to hear of going East or West, as is heard in the USA ).

For example, Bob works, I took it to be, for the railways (he "came home, with his workbag of coal in one hand, and his dirty blueys in the other", the coal he gets from work and doesn't pay for) and just before that Amy is told by the doctor "I take it your husband is up north with the Limited". The main railway in NZ runs most of the length of the country, "up north" one would assume to be as far as Christchurch.

Toby, late in the book, goes "north" to Wellington and he is reminded that the train goes right through to the boat (alluding to Picton at the top of South Island), not to get off at Christchurch. Where, Mrs. Robinson is said to say of his uncle and aunt in Wellington, "they took him on a train where the doors shut without being touched, as if they were told to." This alluding to Wellington's electric commuter trains (newly introduced during late 1930s so the timeline is correct) and is to me part of the theme that knowledge and sophistication increased as one heads north.

That theme in the storyline that knowledge and sophistication increases as one goes northwards comes up right from the start. Early in the book, for example, the town councillor's (the elected town government representatives) say "The northern towns go ahead, becoming bigger and bigger, while we stagnate here, in the south." That is, even now, not an uncommon belief of those in the furthest north who are uninformed or parochial, but the four main cities do indeed increase in size as one goes from the southmost, being Dunedin, through Christchurch, Wellington then Auckland (none of which are anything close to being classed as big by world, or even neighboring Australian, standards though).
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