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Laughter is Universal

Posted on May 1, 2017 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: 1 Comment

Nothing is more conducive to international understanding – and should be practiced much more often – than laughter. Have fun with 10 gems from our catalog.

Why laugh, you might ask. Because “Folly is the part of intellect that makes life worthwhile.” Thus wrote Erasmus of Rotterdam in 1509 in the essay Das Lob der Narrheit. The book influenced rhetoric – and even landed on the index of forbidden books! An English version is available.

It’s two weeks before their wedding and Allan Harroby’s fiancee is forbidden to change her mind. So, Allan comes to Lloyds to take out Love Insurance… Read the book by Earl Derr Biggers to see if things go as planned in the next two weeks.

In Russia, things are not according to plan: A government clerk is sent to a small town to end corruption there, and the villagers are worried. When a man at the inn refuses to pay, it is clear: He surely must be The Inspector General… Have fun with Nikolai Gogol’s classic play.

Another classic was taken as the basis for He by Andrew Lang and Walter H. Pollock. From there, the original “She” has to bear hit after hit… Can you decipher all the references in this side-splitting parody?

Bill Nye doesn’t go quite that far, but he does add a number of sarcastic and humorous remarks to the bare facts in order to produce a Comic History of the United States from the European settlement through the Civil War.

Laughing after everything is over is always easy. Henry E. Warner thinks so too and shares his story of That House I bought; a Little Leaf of Life. Read it carefully – you might learn something useful for when you buy your next house!

Knowing how to convey ideas in writing is always useful. The anonymously published book English as She is Wrote teaches you exactly that; and if you want to know how not to write or how to obscure your ideas, you should definitely read it!

We do not know whether Theophile Gautier ever took writing classes. However, the eight stories of his Contes humoristiques certainly turned out well and very funny. Read for example “Two actors for one role”, “About obesity in literature” or “A nightly visit”.

Harry Graham pays a visit to many famous people in his satirical poetry. Teddy Roosevelt, Joan of Arc, and Adam are just three of the Misrepresentive Men he has a sometimes scathing, closer look at.

That’s what the inhabitants of Huckley should have done as well. But now it’s too late, they are an international laughing stock as The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat. Read the story by Rudyard Kipling to find out if and how this might have been prevented.

Enjoy – and keep laughing (at yourself ;-) )

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Gather ’round, it’s storytime!

Posted on April 1, 2017 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: 2 Comments

Although it is slowly getting spring, April weather can be fickle, and kids may be disappointed when they have to stay indoors. Why not entertain them with 10 gems from our catalog.

When you can’t play outside, what better than having a grandmother who tells fairy tales? Poor Jupp has one – and he makes a deal with rich Otto who would like to have one. In Die verkaufte Großmutter by Hanns Heinz Ewers, the two boys first listen, but soon invent their own stories…

The littlest One – His Book is a little boy’s own life story. In 30 humorous verses, Marion St. John Webb tells of various adventures a little boy can have in- and outside of the house, regardless of the weather.

Another exciting adventure story is The Lion of St. Mark. In the 14th century, the city of Venice is threatened by the surrounding cities, especially rivalling Genoa. Will a mere boy from England be able to save the day in G. A. Henty’s story?

Out there in space, a day can be very long, a feeling our Young Readers Science Fiction Stories by Richard Mace Elam convey perfectly. Written in 1957, they are not always factually correct, but they still convey the charm of empty, unexplored space.

The Frozen North is still mostly empty, and the book by Edith Horton tells about the explorations that took place in the Arctic region. Part biography, part history, it tells of real adventures from the beginning of the 20th century.

Some 600 years did it last, the Roman Empire. H. A. Guerber gives a comprehensive Story of the Romans from their myth-shrouded beginnings with Romulus, their peak around the reign of Julius Ceasar, until the fall of the Western Empire in 480.

When kings go missing, it is never a good sign for anyone. Robin Hood knows that – and is prepared to fight the establishment taking advantage of the situation. Amice MacDonell took one version of the popular English tale and turned it into a play for children.

It’s not easy to say whether Robin was right in what he did, since morals and virtue are not easy things at all. Better teach them early, as Rev. Wilfrid J. Diamond tries with 51 short sermons for each week of the year, collected in Sunday Morning Storyland.

When kids start asking difficult questions, it is hard to stop them – and sometimes, to give the right answers. In Madam How and Lady Why, Charles Kingsley is answering questions about common natural phenomena like coral reefs, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc.

The question of Kashtanka is much easier: How do I get home again? The little dachshund mix was separated from her family and is taken in by a vaudevillian where she meets many other intelligent animals. Read the story by Anton Chekhov to find out if she ever sees her family again.

Enjoy – and stay young at heart!

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Love that dare not…

Posted on March 1, 2017 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: 2 Comments

“I love you” – three easy words to say, no? Not if you’re judged by others for saying them. This month we honour authors from the LGBT community and their struggles with 10 gems from our catalogue.

Life was easy in ancient Greece and Rome, when gay men could show their love openly. Gaius Petronius Arbiter tells in The Satyricon about the misadventures of Encolpoius and his young lover Giton.

Some 1900 years later, things had changed: Homosexuality was seen as a pathological perversion that needed to be cured or at least suppressed. One of the most influental doctors of this time, Sigmund Freud, details his views in the first essay in Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex.

This often led to an enormous struggle to try and reconcile public image with privately held desires. Federico Garcia Lorca, a well known Spanish poet, suffered greatly for what he could not change, and was assassinated in 1936. We have 67 of his poems in Libro de Poemas.

One way of dealing with this was to confide in close friends only. This is what E. M. Forster did. His first book Where Angels Fear to Tread still deals with a mesalliance: An English widow falls in love with an Italian – something her husband’s family cannot let happen…

Another example of “for friend’s eyes only” is Lytton Strachey. Openly gay to his friends, he kept his sexual orientation quiet otherwise. It is likely that his subtle mocking of four Eminent Victorians would not habe been so well received otherwise.

Those two at least were not betrayed by their friends. Once officially outed, The Trial of Oscar Wilde took place, and he was sentenced to two years of hard labour. This is a dramatic reading of an anonymous, contemporary court report.

Given the possible outcomes of being marked as “deviant”, it was best to keep quiet. Marcel Proust never admitted to be gay and even his housekeeper appears to have been unawares, other than his friends. A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs is part of his masterpiece A la recherche du temps perdu.

Public opinion was apparently always kinder to lesbian couples, especially in recent times. Gertrude Stein was already able to live an open life as lesbian. Her book Geography and Plays contains experimental stream of consciousness essays.

Of course, it was never a good idea to flaunt one’s lifestyle, no matter what it might be. The Autobiography I, Mary MacLane of an openly bisexual feminist caused a major scandal. Today, Mary MacLane would be described as the first blogger ever.

Even though extemely popular, Marie Corelli had no notions of living a public life. Although she never described herself as lesbian, she lived with her lover for 40 years and left her all her property. Among it was Ziska, a book about an alluring Egyptian princess wreaking havoc among a party of European travellers…

Enjoy – and keep saying “I love you!”

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Be my Valentine!

Posted on February 1, 2017 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: Comments Off

February 14 is Valentine’s Day and depending on where you live you will buy or receive Valentine’s chocolates, cards, flowers… We also let our romantic side show this month with 10 gems from our catalogue.

Let’s start with twelve French Medieaval Romances from the Lays of Marie de France. Written in the 12th century, the stories idealize the then popular concept of courtly love, complete with noble ladies and fearless knights on white steeds.

Knight Huldbrand is stranded by a flood at a fisherman’s hut and falls in love with and marries Undine. When the waters recede, the newlyweds move to town, where old loves wait for him. But Undine is a water spirit, and they take their vows very seriously… We also have an English translation of this classic by German author Friedrich de la MotteFouqué.

Even more complicated is the romance by Abbé Prévost: The chevalier de Griaux elopes with Manon Lescaut, and they live in sin until he loses all his money and Manon leaves him for somebody who can support her lifestyle. Griaux follows Manon all the way to the US – but will he finally be able to marry her?

When hearing complicated stories like that, the best advice is probably: Don’t Marry! or at least, be very picky as to the partner with whom to tie the knot until death. In this book, author James W. Donovan shares insights on how to choose a matching spouse.

James and Alida don’t need that kind of advice, as they are entering into their marriage strictly as business partners: He because he needs help on his farm, and she because she wants security. Everything goes well in the book by Edward P. Roe – until He Fell in Love With His Wife

Who knows all the details of how this turned out, maybe he is even writing love poems like George Parsons Lathrop did. The collection Rose and Roof Tree is dedicated to his wife, of whom he says “…every line here shall in some sense breathe of thee, and in its very face bear record of her whom, however unworthily, it seeks to serve and honor.”

Instead of poetry, Hester Lynch Piozzi – a well known British author – wrote Love Letters – and that at the age of 80! Twice widowed and mother of twelve children, she fell in love with English actor William Augustus Conway, 48 years her junior, to whom these letters are addressed.

She certainly did not need any instructions in The Art of Kissing. And probably neither do you, but William Rossiter’s manual also covers other interesting aspects, like the origin of kissing, the different kinds of kisses, or how people kiss in different countries.

People in Finland probably kiss in the ordinary way. For couples to meet at work is not unusual either, so the parents of Samu invite Hetvi to the communal haymaking on their farm and hope for the best. However, things don’t quite turn out as planned in the Finnish novel Salmelan heinätalkoot by Olli Wuorinen.

Already loved is Cornelia, The Maid of Maiden Lane; unfortunately she has one suitor too many… Facing opposition from parents and friends, her choice will not be easy, and she should certainly not have made that blunder either. Find out what she will do in our dramatic reading of the story by Amelia E. Barr.

Enjoy – and have a nice Valentine’s Day!

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