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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Austen’s Powers

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Jane Austen remains one of the best-loved authors in the English language. Her novels possess a perennial appeal for anyone drawn to the quaint customs of Regency England, or seduced by Austen's indelible mix of refined badinage and blissful endings. Many Austen fans would give anything to enter the charming world of her novels-a scenario explored recently in the successful BBC series "Lost in Austen" and Laurie Viera Rigler's Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. Alas, real life offers few opportunities for time travel. Fans must make do with the comforting camaraderie of book clubs and tea parties to satisfy their picturesque yearnings. On March 21 the Milwaukee Central Library offers local Austen enthusiasts a chance to learn more about the author, meet the cast of Milwaukee Rep's current production of Pride and Prejudice, and take part in a tea tasting hosted by Milwaukee's own Rishi Tea.

As part of the event, author Kim Wilson will discuss the significance of tea in the novel and the play. Although Milwaukee's tea community has blossomed over the past decade, the beverage has deep roots in England reaching as far back as the 17th century, when Portuguese and Dutch traders brought it to the country's shores. Wilson's 2004 book Tea with Jane Austen explores the role of tea serving and drinking in 19th-century English society. In her more recent book, In the Garden with Jane Austen, Wilson displays a similar combination of history, biographical information, novel excerpts and practical advice-this time in the idyllic garden setting. The book visits the gardens of English manor houses and estates that served as the inspiration for the pastoral scenes in Austen's books where many of the key plot turns take place.

"Tea with Jane Austen" takes place in the library's Rare Books Room at 1:30 p.m. on March 21.

Also this week, thriller author Barry Eisler comes to Milwaukee to promote his new book, Fault Lines. In it he examines the amorphous definition of democracy and the threats posed by technology in today's charged political climate. When the inventor of a powerful new network security program is murdered, his cynical patent attorney finds himself embroiled in an international conspiracy to get ahold of the trailblazing technology. He enlists the help of his estranged brother, an undercover military operative engaged in a mission to assassinate a couple of Iranian nuclear scientists. A beautiful Iranian lawyer, drawn into the plot, fans the flames of fraternal discord, forming a love triangle that binds individuals on opposing sides of the ideological fence. Eisler appears at Mystery One on March 23 at 7 p.m.

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