In the week it takes me to read five different books on how to be a writer, approximately 30 books are delivered to my Berlin apartment. This is a decline from the 15 to 30 that used to be delivered every day, and I’m grateful for the barrier of costly international postage that keeps these numbers down. I will immediately discard about three-quarters of the books. Some of these, I would say maybe eight percent of the books I receive, are self-published. Under their bios the writers dutifully list the writing programs they attended. Now they have landed here, with a clip-art book cover, a cheap binding, and a $12 stamp to send it to a book critic who doesn’t even really review fiction anymore. I feel bad for these writers, and the years of effort and money they spent on a writing education, and all of that boundless optimism… More…

Picture this: Several hundred people, many in Empire gowns, buttoned boots, and bonnets pirouetting in a stately line across a large ballroom. Women are partnering women for the most part, though here and there one sees a male specimen in knee breeches, long coat, and curled wig sashaying happily amid the beribboned throng.

The event is the Regency Ball of the Jane Austen Society of North America annual general meeting, held at the Westin Hotel in Chicago in October, culminating in two days of total immersion in Austeniana. Preceding the ball was a gala banquet and costume parade down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. When the dancing ended, interested parties retired for games of whist at the little tables set up for the purpose in the lobby of the Westin.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), and the annual meeting featured a full… More…