Dec. 16, 2008

At Sea

by Wendy Mnookin

At the end of the jetty.

Where the boats come in. Where the boats go out. At the pile of rocks
that swallows the sun at the end of the day.

At the turn of the trail. At the last dune.

In front of the hot-dog stand. At the door to the pub. By the shanty,
the shipbuilder's yard, the discarded yellow boots, the smashed
     clam shells.

You thought I'd give in to despair.
But today is today, everywhere I look. And I look everywhere.

"At Sea" by Wendy Mnookin, from The Moon Makes Its Own Plea. © BOA Editions, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Jane Austen, (books by this author) born in Hampshire, England (1775). Today, members of Jane Austen Societies all over the world are celebrating her birthday with a tea or luncheon.

Jane Austen published her books anonymously; the byline stated that the book was by "a Lady." Not many people read her books while she was alive, though she had a small, devoted readership. She died in 1817. Five decades later, her nephew published A Memoir of Jane Austen (1869), which generated widespread interest in his aunt and led to the reprinting of her novels. It touched off a sort of mania for Jane Austen in the 1880s, known as "Austenolatry." But it wasn't until the 1940s — more than 100 years after she died — that Austen's work became the focus of substantial academic scholarship. Austen is now standard reading on high school and college curricula.

There are numerous groups devoted to her work, and thousands of self-proclaimed "Janeites." The Janeites in the U.S. are likely members of JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America, "dedicated to the enjoyment and appreciation of Jane Austen and her writing." At its first meeting in 1979, 100 people gathered at the Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan. Today, the Jane Austen Society of North America has more than 4,000 members and 60 regional groups. JASNA organizes tours to England to visit Austen-themed sites. It publishes an annual online journal, Persuasions On-Line. And it holds an annual fall meeting in a North American city, and over the course of three days, there are lectures by Austen scholars, English country dancing, and picnics like the one described at Box Hill in Emma, where each picnicker brings a dish to share and carries it in a wicker basket. There's also an annual Jane Austen essay contest. This year's essay prompt is about siblings in Austen's novels: "Some siblings act as foils to each other; others are in competition; still others are mutually supportive and encouraging. Examine the importance of siblings in one or two Austen novels."

Jane Austen said, "A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of."

And, "Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance."

And, "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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