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Maria Lectrix

Public domain audiobooks, six days a week, for folks with a Catholic taste in literature. Enjoy! Clan Honor Mondays: Fitz-James O'Brien works. Lit Tuesdays: Short stories, novels, or poems. Acts of the Wednesdays: Early Christian works. Mystery Thursdays: Mystery short stories or novels. Lit Fridays: Short stories, novels, or poems. Saintly Saturdays: Later Christian works.

Mary reading to ChristA Vatican Library catalog page, 1518

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

#52: The Shepherd of Hermas, Book 2, Part 2

We wind up The Shepherd of Hermas with more rural parables about the Church, its members, and the dire need for repentance. It's been a really interesting look at what kind of thoughts and feelings were floating around the early Christian community, and what sort of problems were common among them. The danger of betrayal and the attraction of denial to folks living in an anti-Christian world is very evident.

Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15
2 hrs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Blog Announcements

The third part of Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour is now up.

#51: "The Wondersmith" by Fitz-James O'Brien, Part 1

This week, the honor of the name demands that I begin to read Fitz's creepy Christmas chronicle of bloody Romany revolution on the sidewalks of New York -- by magic!

I'm torn about this story. On the one hand, there's no denying that it's a very clever and scary little urban fantasy. It deals with contemporary issues (nationalist revolution), and uses traditional figures of legend alongside unused ones, like organ grinders and American birds. Furthermore, it weaves in real Romany legends and beliefs very cleverly. On the other hand, it also makes use of European stereotypes, including those against the Romany. And that whole rant against "Christians" doesn't make sense, for example. Rom who live in Europe and America are usually Christians, though they also hold their own beliefs. (Against gaje (non-Romany), you maybe could see the rant. I suspect editorial interference, myself.) Still, it's a good story as long as you bear the truth in mind, and includes a very unusual romance.

So don't give this one to the kids, okay?


Section 1: "Golosh Street and Its People"
Section 2: "A Bottleful of Souls"
Section 3: "Solon"
45 min.

Monday, November 28, 2005

#50: "An Armistice" by Alice B. Haven

I wasn't able to get this 1859 Thanksgiving story out last week, but I wanted to put it up before starting on Fitz-James O'Brien's Christmas stories. So here's the tale of two men, a woman, a bad cold, and an old-fashioned Connecticut Thanksgiving.

Sadly, Alice B. Haven died in 1863. She must have had a good bit of popularity as a writer, since, as the link points out, a memoir of her life came out in 1865. She was apparently primarily a novelist.

Anyway, the story is complete in one part. I swear. It's also available at Cornell.


"An Armistice"
31 min.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

#49: "Hymn to Christ" by Clement of Alexandria

Since I didn't have time to finish up The Shepherd of Hermas this week, I've given you a little early Christian hymn for your first week of Advent needs. (This is also subject to the whims of archive.org, of course.)

#48: Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour, Part 3, by R.S. Surtees

If and when my latest part of Surtees shows up on archive.org, it'll be here.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I'll be out of touch, so see you next week!

Chapter 13: A New Scheme
Chapter 14: Jawleyford Hall
Chapter 15: The Jawleyford Establishment
Chapter 16: The Dinner
Chapter 17: The Tea
Chapter 18: The Evening's Reflections
71 min.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

#47: "An Arabian Nightmare" by Fitz-James O'Brien

First, my strep throat slowed me down. Then going back to work slowed me down. And now hundreds of people rushing to upload before Thanksgiving have slowed archive.org down. (Surtees is up; check my catalog link to archive.org if it doesn't get up in time for the morning.) But all the same, Clan Honor must be served.

"An Arabian Nightmare" is a cute little story about a medieval Arab merchant who travels on business to Russia, stays the winter, and ends up having an interesting encounter with beings straight out of the Arabian Nights.

For those who are keeping score, the latent moral of the story is perfectly appropriate to those of us Christians about to celebrate Thanksgiving. (Heh!)

"An Arabian Nightmare"
18 min.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blog Announcement

I'm very sorry, but I don't think there'll be any audioblogging at all this Friday or Saturday. I'm still sick, and my throat's not getting any better.

If you'll look up at the top of my blog page here at Maria Lectrix, you'll see an illustration that's part of an old Vatican library catalog. Click on that, and you can see all my audiobook files. That ought to keep you busy.

#46: "In a Cellar" by Harriet Prescott Spofford, Part 1

A diplomat does detecting for diamonds and Delphine. This 1859 short story appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, and was the first publication of a very prolific writer named Harriet Prescott Spofford.

The traditional view of detective literature is that there was really no literary detective story between Poe and Doyle. Spofford does not appear to have heard this. Like Alcott and others, she was forgotten by the Christopher Morley generation. I don't think this was sexist; I think it was just a cultural memory hole that most of our mid-Victorian writers have fallen into. (There was supposed to be no "scientific romance" to speak of, either, besides O'Brien's microscopic world of "The Diamond Lens", but I found a story about a "Brazen Android" -- probably Bacon's alleged brazen head -- in Harper's that looks well worth inquiry.) In general, the immediately pre-war stories in Harper's are sharp, well-written, and relatively lean, and the women writers are just as good as the men. I can only suppose that the mid-Victorians were too raw for the late Victorian generation's sentimentality, or not morally uplifting enough, or something of that sort. Or perhaps the literary magazines just got laid aside in a pile somewhere.

"In a Cellar", part 1
Part 2
56 min.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

#45: The Shepherd of Hermas, Book 2, Part 1

We move into the parable half of The Shepherd of Hermas. Sorry I did so little, but I was worn out. You'll also notice an explanation of the Son's preexistence in Part 9 that flings around the word "spirit" very recklessly, but at least it shows that early Christians were thinking about the Trinity.

Part 8
Part 9
27 min.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Blog Announcements

My body and white blood cells have informed me that they'd like me to take it easy for the next few days while they fight off the latest creepin' crud. So I'm afraid that audioblogging will be light until I throw this stuff off.

Also, I've decided that, although I like The Compleat Angler very much, the chapters are also very long. So I think I will only read Mr. Izaak Walton twice a month, on what I shall designate as Fishy Fridays. The other two Fridays will be dedicated to whatever selections from literature I feel like putting up.

#44: Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour, Part 2, by R.S. Surtees

The foxhunting, money-hunting fun continues as Mr. Sponge tries to prove himself to a hunt and sell a horse.

"...Mr. Caingey Thornton and Mr. Spareneck should be especially deputed to wait upon Mr. Sponge, and lead him into mischief. Of course it was to be a 'profound secret,' and equally, of course, it stood a good chance of being kept, seeing how many were in it, the additional number it would have to be communicated to before it could be carried out, and the happy state old Tom was in for arranging matters. Nevertheless, our friends at the 'Imperial' congratulated themselves on their success...."

"Early to bed and early to rise being among Mr. Sponge's maxims, he was enjoying the view of the pantiles at the back of his hotel shortly after daylight the next morning, a time about as difficult to fix in a November day as the age of a lady of a 'certain age.'"

Chapter 7: Our Hero Arrives at Laverick Wells
Chapter 8: Old Tom Towler
Chapter 9: The Meet -- The Find, and the Finish
Chapter 10: The Feeler
Chapter 11: The Deal, and the Disaster
Chapter 12: An Old Friend
1 hr 49 min

Monday, November 14, 2005

#43: "The Enchanted Titan" and "The Sewing Bird" by Fitz-James O'Brien

I promised I'd try to lighten up this place a bit. Also, I realized that last week I may have bit off more than I can chew in terms of looooong works. So instead of a story, today clan honor will be satisfied with a couple of Fitz-James' less dark poems.

"The Enchanted Titan" brings a touch of Greek myth and a touch of the Arabian Nights.

"The Sewing Bird" is fantasy with a political and labor bite. It's a plea for New York stores aimed at women to actually employ women as something other than seamstresses working their fingers to the bone for no money. Not as dark as his big social justice poem, "The Tenement House". Probably his rationale of "where women should be" versus "where men should be" is not very attractive to modern sensibilities, but at the time, advocating shopgirls was a very decent act. Btw, if you're wondering what a sewing bird is, it's a sort of fabric clamp. Here are some fancy ones for better-off women.

"The Enchanted Titan"

"The Sewing Bird"

Saturday, November 12, 2005

#42: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, Book I, Part 2

Thomas a Kempis' book continues, with more straight talk and good advice per inch than any other spiritual book I've read. Not the cheeriest advice, maybe, but as they say in The Princess Bride, "Life is pain." And this author isn't out to sell you anything.

Still, keep in mind when he talks about detachment that he's primarily talking about people who have taken vows to live as religious, not people with families and duties in the outside world.

Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
50 min

Friday, November 11, 2005

#41: The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton, Chapter 1

We continue Huntin', Shootin' and Fishin' Week with the first chapter of Izaak Walton's classic work on catching fish and the contemplative life. He begins with a nicely medievalish dispute between Venator (a hunter), Piscator (a fisherman), and Auceps (a falconer), as to the merits of their three sports. But he sets this in the realistic context of a walk from London out into the country. (That'd be a much longer walk today!)

For those of you keeping score, Walton was an Anglican. But in his will, he acknowledged having many Catholic friends.

Chapter 1: Pt 1
Chapter 1: Pt 2
Chapter 1: Pt 3
1 hr 16 min.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

#40: "A Message from the Deep Sea" by R. Austin Freeman

For once, Dr. Thorndyke gets consulted by the police before an arrest -- in fact, before anyone but the person who discovered the body has touched the crime scene. Lucky for society, because only our Edwardian CSI guy can decipher the message from the sea.

For me, discovering a "new" writer is like eating popcorn. I can't stop. I realize, however, that my current Thorndyke obsession may be imposing on the patience of my listeners. Let me know if you'd like a break. And as always, your suggestions are solicited in the comment boxes.

Part 1
Part 2
66 min

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

#39: The Shepherd of Hermas, Book 1

Nothing like an early Christian "bestseller", huh? Lots of visions, lots of allegories, lots of parables, lots of food for thought. (Lots to disagree with, too. Good thing this book didn't get into the Canon.) Still, it's a book well worth reading.

Also, you get to meet Hermas, an ex-slave shady Christian businessman, whose wife for some reason has a sharp tongue and whose kids keep getting into bad habits or abandoning the Church, but who's still basically a nice guy. Sorta.

Vision 1
Vision 2
Vision 3
Vision 4
Vision 5, Part 1
Vision 5, Part 2
Vision 5, Part 3
1 hr 43 min

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

#38: Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour by R.S. Surtees, Part 1

We continue Huntin', Shootin', and Fishin' Week with part 1 of Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour, the story of a fox-hunting, rich wife-hunting man of limited and mysterious means but great resource. I think it is funny stuff, with a surprisingly undated attitude.

Surtees is one of those English writers of whom other English writers speak with great affection, but this is the first time in my life I've been able to read anything by him. So far, Mr. Sponge's trip is not only a funny story but a very sharp examination of the early Victorian period, missing nothing, but not as bitter about life as Thackeray.

Becky Sharp was never all that likeable. Mr. Sponge at least has some natural virtues to offset his anti-hero status. However, these are usually counteracted immediately by some tiny indication of cruelty to his horses or similar, really unsportsmanlike or ungentlemanly offenses, so that you won't like him too much. It's an interesting tightrope that Surtees walks.

Now, it probably helps if you know a bit about horses and a bit about Victorian fashion. But I don't think that's essential. You get used to letting the context just pour over you in books set in different times and places, and a comedy from another time and place is no exception. You probably didn't understand everything Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett were talking about the first time you read them, either; but they were still funny.

(And yes, there are two chapters named "Laverick Wells". Not a typo.)

Chapter 1: Our Hero
Chapter 2: Mr. Benjamin Buckram
Chapter 3: Peter Leather
Chapter 4: Laverick Wells
Chapter 5: Mr Waffles
Chapter 6: Laverick Wells
1 hr 30 min

Monday, November 07, 2005

#37: "A Terrible Night" by Fitz-James O'Brien

Clan Honor Monday begins the week with this story, wherein two young men traveling through the forests of upstate New York learn the nightmarish dangers of staying with people you don't trust.

Interesting, evocative, and not too long -- a sort of Twilight Zone story from before Rod Serling or Kafka ever showed their faces. It also goes along with my theme for this week, which is "Huntin', Shootin', and Fishin'".

"A Terrible Night"
18 min.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

#36: The Imitation of Christ, Book 1, Part 1

Today I'm beginning to read The Imitation of Christ. This is one of the world's biggest selling books! It's also a book to be thought about more for longer stints than it's read.

Pt. 1
Pt. 2
Pt. 3
45 min.

Friday, November 04, 2005

#35: "Sredni Vashtar" by Saki (H.H. Munro)

Today's story comes from 1911. I suspect that Saki and Roald Dahl have their own bizarre little corner of Heaven....

I'm sorry about the dark tone of the blog thus far, but these are the stories that seem to be occurring to me. I don't usually like horror much, though I find it much more enjoyable to read out loud than in the quiet of my own brain. I guess I'm just on a dark kick -- probably because of the time of year. Of course, the problem is that mainstream stories about men and women living ordinary lives can be even more depressing, dark, and disturbing than stories about dragons, ghosts, doomed spacecraft, murderers, or Evil Gods What Likes Angles That Make Men's Brains Reel. Also, while I'm poking around looking at Fitz stories, I tend to run into other stories like his. But I'll try to find some more cheerful material. Suggestions in the comment boxes will be cheerfully accepted.

"Sredni Vashtar"
12 min 49 sec

Thursday, November 03, 2005

#34: The Red Thumb Mark by R. Austin Freeman, Part 5 (DONE!)

Dr. Thorndyke finally reveals his secret defense for Reuben Hornby in the courtroom at the Old Bailey. Dr. Jervis at last learns a secret which will change his life. So we conclude The Red Thumb Mark. I really enjoyed this book, and I hope you have, too.

(Btw, if you get easily bored with summings-up by the defense, Anstey's big speech is the last thing on that track. So you can skip ahead, if you need. Also, you can as usual read the book over at Project Gutenberg.)

Part 1: Chapters 1-4
Part 2: Chapters 5-8
Part 3: Chapters 9-12
Part 4: Chapters 13-14

Chap. 15: "The Finger-Print Experts"
Chap. 15, Pt. 2
Chap. 16: "Thorndyke Plays His Card"
Chap. 16, Pt. 2
Chap. 16, Pt. 3
Chap. 17: "At Last"
2 hrs 30 min