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Jittery over nothing

At her blog, the other day, Ellen Moody mentioned Janet Frame's An Angel at my Table, and I dimly recalled seeing part of a film adaptation. What I remembered wasn't pleasant, so although I rented the video right away, I didn't get round to watching it for a week. Yesterday, it was either sit through it or send it back unwatched. I sat through it. As you'll know if you've seen it, Jane Campion's 1990 movie is huge. It covers the extremities of life in completely new ways, largely by throwing narrative establishment out the window without losing the story to incoherence. There is a real sense of life's being "one damned thing after another," but instead of making the film inconsequent, this intensifies its flavor.

An Angel at my Table was Kerry Fox's second movie, but she may well have learned everything she'd ever need to know about carrying a film in the process of making it - including the manipulation of her weight. Her Little Orphan Annie mop of unruly red hair is hardly flattering; neither are the rotting teeth that don't get fixed until halfway through. But her fragility is so worrying that you can't let her go; you have to see her through. I felt awful pretty quickly after the adult Janet Frame, played by Ms Fox, succeeded her younger selves.

Misdiagnosed as schizophrenic by New Zealand doctors in the Forties, Janet Frame was subjected to hundreds of instances of electric shock therapy. She wrote her way through it and became a published author from the institution. As her talent was recognized, she received a great deal of help from supporters, and eventually got to England, where she turned into something like a normal young woman. A season on a Spanish island introduced her to love when her youth was passing. But she was always a writer, and a reader when she wasn't. It turns out that I always thought that what I'd seen years ago was My Brilliant Career.

I had woken up very early and in a bad mood. Comment spam has been particularly nettlesome lately. Spam in guise of comments, consisting of nothing but objectionable links and usually attached to very old entries, is a real violation. It seems so pointless and so malicious! (It isn't pointless, alas. The multiplication of links increases the search-engine rank of the linked sites Thanks to a plug-in, comment spam doesn't appear on my site, and it's very easy to get rid of. But it's very dispiriting to find out that a new comment that I've just been notified about is garbage. Wrong on two counts: it's garbage and it's not comment. I thought that disabling the comment facility for a few early hours today might stem the attack, but it didn't, and when I began watching An Angel on my Table I was already jittery.

Then there was the FreshDirect screw-up. The doormen and I were not aware of any attempt to delivery my groceries between ten o'clock and noon, the stated time-frame, but a FreshDirect driver claimed to have been here without finding anyone at home. Three or four phone calls later, I was once again waiting for a delivery, which in the event came at about three-forty. I wasn't inconvenienced, but I hated waiting for the buzzer, and trying to make sure that I wouldn't miss it.

When the movie was over, I sat down to work at a rather late hour in a state of near sea-sickness. But a few comments from real visitors cheered me up, and polishing off a long page set me to rights. (You can visit the page now, if you like, or you can wait until I "front" it here on Tuesday.)


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I swore never to watch another Jane Campion film after seeing "Sweetie" and "The Piano," both of which I disliked intensely. And yet here I am contemplating moving to New Zealand.

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