Reality bites?

Book cover: "Gifted"Patrick Evans offended Janet Frame so badly she sent him the angriest letter he ever got from someone he wasn’t in a relationship with. She called him a ‘person from Porlock’, likening him to the unwanted intruder who disrupted Coleridge’s inspired creativity as he set down his dream of the poem Kubla Khan.

Evans never met Frame, but he has spent 40 years thinking and writing about her; reading and teaching her. She called herself New Zealand’s greatest unread writer; he calls her the richest we have ever had.

Gifted, Evans’ novel about Janet Frame and Frank Sargeson, is an interesting addition to the ever increasing genre of books about ‘real’ people featuring some events that did happen and some that did not.

C.K. Stead met them both – he said the Frank and Janet in Gifted are much nicer than the real Frank and Janet. Others thought not. Few would know the ‘truth’.

So who owns the story of a person’s life? Does Patrick Evans have the right to attempt another narrative of Janet Frame’s life, when she had Book cover" "Wulf"already created one with her autobiography?

Who owns the stories of Te Rauparaha or Paratene Te Manu? Where does history end and the novel begin?

Maurice Shadbolt wrote fiction about the New Zealand Wars and said “it’s true if I say it is”.

Peter Carey wrote fiction about the Kelly Gang and said “I made it all up”.

What do you think?