Jane Austen fans are hardly wilting wallflowers but instead an avid array of people who dress up in period costumes and talk passionately about favorite books and miscellany from their beloved author despite it being nearly 200 years after her death. The first meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America was held in 1979 and attracted some 100 people to the Gramercy Park Hotel, writes Jennifer Schuessler in The New York Times. This year's meeting took place in Brooklyn last weekend, and "Attendance was over 700, the event lasted three days, and the daytime dress code for many ran to pale Regency dresses, demure bonnets and straw baskets to hold anything that wouldn’t fit into a period-correct reticule."
This is the moment of the year for Austen fans, "a place where people can let their Jane Austen freak flag fly,” according to one attendee. So, as book lovers and Austen fans, we were curious: What exactly happens at a meeting of Jasna? Along with a ball, reports Schuessler, there were lectures and speeches from the likes of Cornel West, Cisco Systems' Sandy Lerner, and novelist Anna Quindlen; the three talked, respectively, of matters ranging from Austen's understanding of human suffering to her lack of understanding of cash to a discussion of "two centuries of male condescension to Austen’s seemingly small domestic dramas."