Travelin’ Jane

September 14, 2008

Im ready for my close-up, Mr. Darcy

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Darcy

Jane is taking her act on the road. Next month, Jane Austen will headline her own session at the Missouri Library Association conference in St. Louis.

Her two loyal publicity flaks supporters, Kaite and Jenny, will talk about how library staff can use Jane to star in their own series of programs, everything from movies to tea parties to this blog.

If you’re going to be in St. Louis, stop by and give one of literature’s most popular authors a boost. Perhaps she’ll offer you a spot of tea.


Encore for Jane

February 21, 2008

On Tuesday, February 19, we waved goodbye to Jane-uary with an encore presentation of “The Torments of Rice Pudding and Apple Dumplings” at the Plaza Library. Over 100 people dipped into Earl Grey tea and blueberry scones and then sat down to hear Sheryl Craig discuss the different foods and customs of Jane Austen’s time period and those that appeared in her novels.

  Aside from the interesting tidbits  regarding table  settings and specific dishes; Sheryl also talked about the various mealtimes in Austen’s novels. She pointed out that when a gentleman was taken with one of the ladies, he was less likely to sit next to her and more likely to sit across from her. Sheryl also mentioned that while ladies were seated first, they’d sit wherever they liked and leave the menfolk to take up the empty places at the table. (I think this was a ploy to sit near the desserts.)

Sheryl talked at length about the first celebrity chef, Antonin Careme, who lived during Jane Austen’s time. She certainly would have heard of him as he was the personal chef to the Prince Regent. At the time he was most well known for baking Napoleon’s wedding cake. He made French cooking fashionable and French chefs were highly prized in Regency society.

Sheryl also talked about Jane Austen’s mysterious china pattern and the kitchen restoration project at Chawton House. In the future, Sheryl said, hopefully, staff at the Jane Austen house will cook Regency era food using cooking methods of the early 19th century.

After the program Sheryl shared with me what she does with all the speaking fees she receives from various Jane Austen events. She donates them the to the Jane Austen kitchen restoration. Once the kitchen is complete, Sheryl deserves more than a fireplace brick with her name on it, she should receive her own delicately engraved tea cup and saucer.

Dedication and drollery

February 17, 2008

Oh, that Jane Austen. Can’t tell her what to do. Well, you can if you’re the Prince Regent, but be prepared for some Regency-flavored passive-aggressive compliance.

The Prince Regent liked Jane’s novels so much he sent ’round his own personal librarian to invite (read: politely command) our authoress to dedicate her next novel, Emma,  to him. One cannot respectfully decline such an invitation if one is attached to one’s head, so to speak.

Thus, in her own inimitable fashion (and likely after a few choice Regency cuss words), Jane penned a dedication to the original Playboy Prince using all his favorite words, and some of them three times, “His Royal Highness.”

Wonder if he even read the book?

Love, Jane

February 14, 2008

LoveJane1What better way to express admiration and affection for Jane Austen than to celebrate her legacy with tea, family and a nice game of “Jane-pardy”. That’s Jeopardy with a Jane theme for those of you who missed it. LoveJane1LoveJane1

Zarrin ReynoldsZarrin, our go-to Janexpert, brought a challenging game of Jane-pardy to Plaza and the group who gathered to share favorite scenes and characters from Austen novels.

Four teams competed for the title of “All Knowing Jane-iacs of the Universe!” and a copy of The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Fowler. And those questions were hard. Especially the marriage ones. Team Ellen Zarrin made it tougher by putting a time limit on answering and letting teams steal any other team’s questions. Team Ellen won by a narrow margin.

Most of the attendees brought relatives. Mothers brought daughters; granddaughters brought grandmothers; new moms brought their cousins. All had read at least one Jane Austen novel and happily gabbed about other favorite books, the KCPT series of Jane Austen programming on Sunday nights and which literary continuations of Jane’s beloved characters served their mistress well.

One mother said she hoped she was passing her fancy for Jane’s books on to the next generation. However, her daughter wasn’t listening as she was busily flipping through Suspense and Sensibility by Carrie Bebris, a Mr and Mrs Darcy mystery.

After a quick discussion of all the versions of Pride & Prejudice available on DVD someone joked that the new refrain for the “single woman in want of a mate” will be “Someday, my Darcy will come.”

It’s a truth universally acknowledged: A reader in want of a good book, must be looking for Jane Austen.

Torments of Rice Pudding

February 1, 2008


The Jane hits just keep on coming! Last night, to close out Jane-uary, the Waldo Community Library graciously hosted over 80 people for “The Torments of Rice Pudding and Apple Dumplings.” Don’t be alarmed. It’s not as academic as it sounds. Sheryl Craig presented a detailed and scrumptious program on the food in Jane Austen‘s novels. Not willing to leave us with that, she also discussed the methods and manners of dining in Jane Austen’s time.

Interesting tidbits to come out of the evening’s tea-laced and tart-graced conversation included the following facts:

  • Dessert was frequently served with the first course and no one minded if you ate that first.
  • Peas were eaten with knives.
  • No one passed the potatoes. Rather, if you wanted something in a dish at the other end of the table, you passed your plate and someone sitting near the potatoes would dish them out for you.
  • If nothing is getting passed around to all the diners, there’s a lot of grabbing at spoons, bread, and wine. This is not considered rude.
  • Conversation is a must. Never mind the wallflowering. Even the most boring people were expected to make small talk. See: Mr. Collins in Pride & Prejudice.
  • Breakfast was a simple affair–tea and toast–and in the Austen family it was Jane’s responsibility to prepare the morning repast.

Anyone who missed the above event can catch the repeat performace on February 19, 2008 at 6:30 pm at the Plaza Library. Look for another Jane-uary event in February, “Love and Jane: A Mother/Daughter Tea” on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 4 pm also at Plaza.

Jane Across and Down

January 29, 2008

Jane Austen Crossword Puzzle.

It’s not as easy as it looks. You’ll need a thorough grounding in all the character names, locations and even a quote or two. You don’t even have to do it in ink. Fill in the squares from the comfort of your PC while watching this past Sunday’s penny dreadful Mansfield Park. (Still waiting for a review of that from our own Jane-nut Gallery. General consensus is MP was duller than listening to Miss Bates talk.)

Austen on Film

January 28, 2008

Did everyone watch Mansfield Park last night? I’m undecided on my feelings. I think I need to watch it again.

If you ever need to see how many movie versions of the books there are the Jane Austen Society of North America has all of that on their website. You just click on the book title and there are all the movie versions.

What are your feelings on Northanger Abbey? It’s only been made into a movie one other time. I wish they had all been mini-series. I liked Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park but I think they need to be longer to get the whole story. I would also love to see Persuasion done as a mini-series. One of my problems with the 2005 Pride and Prejudice is I don’t think you get a sense of how much time passes. I think it’s easier to accomplish when it’s a mini-series.

Weekend with Jane

January 27, 2008

zjane21.jpgJane-fans had a weekend’s worth of  activities to choose from at the Kansas City Public Library. Yesterday, the day started with “See Jane Write: The Novels of Jane Austen”, a book group sponsored by Common Grounds, the Saturday morning reading gang that meets at the Nine Muses Cafe in the Central Library.

 Local Jane-enthusiast Zarrin Reynolds brought plenty of insight into the thematic overlays of all the novels and then broke the crowd of 30+ attendees into tables for more intimate chat. zjane1.jpgReynolds’ remarks made Austen more intriguing for readers familiar with some or all of the works and made room for those readers who are new to Austen. The crowd cheered when Reynolds admitted she had “probably read every Austen novel and watched every movie in the past two weeks multiple times.”

After “See Jane Write” many in the crowd grabbed a quick lunch and returned for the afternoon showing of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen.


Today, at the Trails West Library, visiting author Nancy Moser donned Regency garb to discuss one of her latest novels, Just Jane, a fictional retelling of Jane Austen’s life leading up to the peak of her writing career.

Moser addressed a large crowd, as can be seen at right, and provided many entertaining anecdotes gleaned from her extensive research into the life of Jane Austen. The crowd roared with laughter when Moser compared Austen’s family’s move to Bath as the “equivalent of retiring to Miami.”

As important as Jane is the to the production of her books, Moser pointed out the contributions made by Jane’s older sister, Cassandra. Cassandra was described by Moser as “Jane’s champion.” Cassandra knew Jane had talent and did everything she could to nurture and encourage Jane’s writing, from taking on extra household tasks to cajoling Jane to take up her pen again after the move to Bath and the subsequent move to Chawton House in Hampshire.

Audience members had plenty of questions for Moser, ranging from the lives of Austen’s siblings after Austen’s death to Jane’s final resting place to Jane’s love of music, before descending on the table of books Moser had brought to sign and sell.

For Moser, and most of the audience, Jane Austen more than the author of classic and enduring works of Regency era fiction, she is the sort of person one could have a delightful conversation with over a cup of tea.

If I cared to compare the statistics, I think I would find that Jane Austen has a greater web presence than Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan combined. It’s certainly a more respectable one. Although Jane A. probably isn’t racking up the web hits like Jessica/Ashley S. because, well, Jane has talent, brains and manners. Jane does not have a publicist, drinking problem or fashion faux pas that go beyond accidentally dropping a handkerchief.

Those of you looking for a quieter, gentler, more thoughtful community of like-minded Janeites, should hop over to The Republic of Pemberley. The Pemberlians freely admit to an obsession with Jane Austen and boldly point out there are other more destructive things to be obsessive about, thankyouverymuch, and if you do not like their site, well, then, there are plenty of places on the Internet for people “just like you.”

Their mannerly way of telling visitors this is their world, you’re welcome to it, and if you don’t like it, please allow us to show you to the door and thank you for your visit, is refreshing. There’s no name calling, forum locking, or flaming. Everyone must use their true name and be accountable for all content in posts submitted.

The Republic of Pemberley is a font of Jane information ranging from the six original books, to Jane’s life, to literary continuations and sequels, to academic examination of literary allusions in the Austen novels.

For Jane Austen with a dollop of sass and wit, drop in on the AustenBlog and answser the question “one lump of snark or two?”  The six Jane-o-philes who make up the staff collect all the information referencing Jane that ijust fit anywhere else. Tidbits such as Jane Austen celebrations nationwide, TV shows that namecheck Jane (looking at you, CSI), commentary on literary critics who feel the need to comment on Jane’s perennial appeal and its affect on their lives, and LOLJane. If you don’t know what that is, you really need to clicky the linky. Have a laugh, why don’t you?

The House that Jane Built

January 22, 2008


We all know that Jane didn’t build anything except charming little worlds peopled with loveable heroines, romantic heroes, despicable cads, cunning villainesses,  and a cleric or two, to say nothing of the dog.

This is Jane’s last known residence before settling into eternal rest at Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire, England. She has a weekend retreat in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner as well.

The Jane Austen House Museum, or Chawton House as the Jane-o-philes refer to it colloquially, is also located in Hampshire. Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life at Chawton House and wrote Emma and Persuasion seated at a very small writing table and carefully dipping a delicate feather quill in a small bottle of ink.

Jane’s brother, Edward, a supporter of her writing, owned the “cottage” as part of his estate in Chawton and offered it to his sisters and mother rent free. The family moved to Chawton from Bath in 1809 and Jane spent the rest of her days here, revising existing works and creating whole new ones.