Adventures Befalling a Janeite in Chicago…

Back from the AGM! and it was, as expected, fabulous!  I had decided to carry nothing electronic with me (except, I confess, the necessary cell phone) and take a break from this computer-driven world and really retreat into the early nineteenth-century.  So now I will retrace my four days in Austen’s world and fill you in on “all things Jane”; and only lament that it shall be days before I can return to Letter No. 3, and a terrible confession that the first day found me scouting the Emporium…

Day One Diary:

Arrived surprisingly on time midday Thursday and immediately perused the Emporium.  Expected a quick run-through to see the display of books and merchandise, but, of course was captivated by all the shopping opportunities, and for one who can browse among just books for hours, this was a happy intro to the whole weekend.

Jane Austen Books, with the torch recently passed from Pat Latkin to Jennifer Weinbrecht and her two daughters Amy and Beth [click here for their website, soon to be updated], had the usual feast of old and new, and after semi-guiltily adding to my luggage weight moved on to the Ontario-based Traveler’s Tales, a bookstore often at the AGMs that never fails with its offering of used and rare literary, history, and domestic arts titles [am now in trouble with my luggage weight concerns and will need to ship any further purchases…]

A quick stop at Figaro, and antiques shop of “Parisian Interiors”  whose lovely display of decorative arts (think tea cups and Burleigh China in shades of pink and blue,) scarves for self-adornment, french soaps, and fashion  illustrations –  all a tempting treat and a perfect addition to the Emporium atmosphere.

Back to more books with a visit with Jones Books  [publisher of Kim Wilson’s Jane Austen and Tea and her new book on In the Garden with Jane Austen  as well as other Austen-related titles], and then onto the locally owned Barbara’s Bookstore, also with a nice selection of titles, including the new Vintage Classics series of all of Austen’s novels with EXCELLENT covers depicting regency fashion illustrations (see the blog Adventures in Reading for a look at all the covers and here at to purchase, and also at for another set of new covers for Austen with contemporary and simple designs)



     Then on to several booths of fashion…bonnets, dresses, laces, reticules; there is so much talent out there, that I am tempted to dust off my last-used-twenty-years-ago sewing machine (but alas! can one sew AND blog?? doubtful…), and finally a jewelry designer who turns antique buttons, cuff-links, tie-clasps into any number of gorgeous wearable creations (and who I am sorry to say has no website)..

For this Lizzie-like bonnet, visit Bee in Your Bonnet, for custom-made regency style millinery

The Regional Chapter tables never fail to please and delight with numerous cards, calendars, t-shirts, bookmarks, paper-dolls, etc…all perfect gifts for the Janeite on your list (go to the JASNA site’s merchandise page for a sampling)…  and don’t forget to order your 2009 calendar(s) from the Wisconsin Chapter (there is no picture here, so just trust me that they are the best yet and will be a pleasure to look at throughout the whole year!)

So for someone who really hates to shop (excepting for books…heck, we all need at least ONE vice!), my bag is now indeed overweight and I must ready myself for the evening festivities…

Jeff Nigro of the Art Institute of Chicago (currently the Director of Adult Programs), who says that his relationship with Austen was “love at first read”  (I love this!), spoke on “Visualizing Jane Austen & Jane Austen Visualizing.”  With references to the 1995 P&P (Ehle / Firth) showing the scene with Lydia tossing her recently-purchased bonnet, he stressed that in the novel there is no description of the bonnet, leaving the reader to imagine its ugliness, while in the movie it has to be visualized and so indeed the movie creator struggles to get this just right (and why it may not be the bonnet YOU have been imagining all these years!)

Mr. Nigro then shifted to visualizing Austen herself, i.e. the two drawings of Austen by her sister Cassandra, the 1804 watercolor and the 1810-11 sketch, and how the illusive nature of both has resulted in varying and disparate interpretations, as well as outright editing to fit contemporary views.









And finally Nigro reviewed the various illustrators of Austen’s novels, from Thomson and the Brocks to 20th-century artists, and ending and coming full-circle with the visualizing aspect of movie adaptations.  He asked aloud how Jane Austen might feel about these various adaptations and concluded that she would likely approve, as he referenced her letters voicing her various opinions on how her characters looked by comparing them to portraits she viewed (though never finding one satisfactory for her own vision of Mrs. Darcy.)

A fabulous talk!…and a terrific preface to the next three days!  [stay-tuned tomorrow for Day 2…there is a Darcy treat in the offing….ah! but what a tease…he does not show up until Day 4!]

2 thoughts on “Adventures Befalling a Janeite in Chicago…

  1. You are such a tease!!!! And you’ve given me some more books to add to my “must check these out” list. Thank you!!!


  2. Pingback: AustenBlog . . . she’s everywhere » JASNA AGM wrap-up

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