Welcome!

Hello everyone, and welcome to A Novel Expedition. If you share my enthusiasm for literature, you’ve come to the right place; this is a blog designed with the bookworm in mind. Please feel free to pull up a chair, pour a cup of coffee or tea, and stay awhile!
My idea for this site is to provide you with quality book reviews of both recent and classic literature, as well as share some of my own poetry and stories with you all. I hope that together we can cultivate our love for the written word and rediscover the magical art of story-telling!
Thanks everyone, and let the reading commence!
-the O.O

Why Everyone Should Read the Classics

Good Sunday afternoon,

This past week, while roaming through the stacks of my college library, I was impressed, once again, with the sheer volume of literature that has been written and published in the world. Strolling through the dimly lit aisles, my coffee cup precariously balanced on 5 books I was clutching to my chest, I was overwhelmed with the thought of how many books I have yet to read and discover. So many books, so little time!, I thought as the fingers of my free hand lovingly stroked the bindings of the books to my left. Though I was on a mission to find resources for a paper I’m writing on Dante’s Divine Comedy, I allowed myself a few seconds to soak in the grandeur of all that surrounded me.

Strolling through the library also got me thinking about why I read (and why I began a blog about reading in the first place!). As I mentioned in my first post, classical literature is one of my favorite genres, and as an English major I spend a great deal of time studying the likes of Austen, Hugo, and Dante. Though I’m certainly not an expert on the classics, I thought it would be fun to share with you 5 reasons why I believe everyone should read a classic or two in their lifetime.

1. First, the classics are so named for a reason; they will never grow old or “out of date” because they convey universal truths concerning life and humanity that most everyone has/will experience to some degree in his/her lifetime. Whether you’re reading Pride and Prejudice or Les Miserables, I guarantee you will find quintessential themes such as love, hate, joy, or suffering hidden within their pages. While such themes will resonate differently in each individual, the bottom line is that the classics are just as relevant to today’s culture as they were centuries before.
2. Your favorite modern fiction novels were probably inspired by one of the classics! While we know J.K.Rowling’s Dumbledore has an uncanny resemblance to a particular grey-bearded wizard in Lord of the Rings, you might be surprised to discover that Suzanne Collins was influenced by Homeric mythology while writing the Hunger Games. If you have a particular love for a certain YA novel, you might enjoy its equivalent in the classics section!
3. Due the “old English” language found within much of older literature, reading a classic will improve your concentration skills. Whether you love this style of writing, or find it yawn-worthy, reading a classic now and again will heighten your reading skills and cultivate some serious mental willpower.
4. Reading books from the by-gone ages gives us a better understanding of who we are in the grand trajectory of human existence. Ever since the invention of the computer, informational data is constantly changing and updating, and online records are not always preserved….you might say history has become a thing of the past (pun intended). Thus, the “here and now” mentality is more prevalent in society than ever. Reading classic literature then provides us with a sense of reality. History does not begin and end with us; people lived before us, and people will probably live after us as well. Reading the classics reminds us of who we are, individually and universally, and gives us a better understanding of cultures that existed long before us.
5. Last by not least, reading the classics can be fun. Don’t let bad memories of high school English class discourage you from picking up Dickens or Bronte; give classic literature another chance. Just because your 9th grade teacher forced you to write a ten-page paper on the ethics of Mr. Rochester’s decision to marry Jane does not mean the story itself is boring!

Reading the classics can be fun. Really! Next time you find yourself watching reruns of Friends on Netflix, turn off the tv and grab a book. It might be just the thing for a rainy day 😊

P.S. I’m not discouraging watching reruns of Friends…It’s pretty hilarious.

In Peace

I wrote this poem almost a year ago after switching to a vegetarian diet. After feeling a little judged for my decision (hey, I get it, chicken is tasty!) I wrote this poem as a response. It is not meant to be accusatory, just humorous and hopefully insightful to those of you who have difficulty understanding us leafy-eaters 🙂

“She just wants attention!”
Accuse my leering mockers,
As I order my green salad,
And they their tasty Whoppers.

“How do you get your protein?”
She asks in obvious disdain,
Before quickly changing topics,
Not even letting me explain.

“You’re missing out on life!”
He exclaims in total disbelief,
Comparing my bowl of quinoa
With his spaghetti and ground beef.

“But aren’t you a Christian?
God made animals for us to eat!”
My colleagues crow triumphantly,
Thinking they finally have me beat.

Throughout the day they scoff and scorn
Ridicule ensues at every meal.
Yet I keep silent, I keep the peace,
Though weary of their remarks I feel.

So when the day draws to a close,
I escape to my little paradise (my home),
I cuddle with my cat, I kiss my dog,
And I eat my food-

In peace.

Imitation

Little culture makers,
Scurrying down below.
They build and write and draw and sing
And to the skies they crow
Boasting of all their strength and wit
With everyone they know.

Puffed with pride they strut,
Like peacocks all pruned up.
So vain and silly about their work
And giddy as the newborn pup,
Who, so in love with life,
Forgets him who fills his cup.

For up above sits one who laughs
As their boasts increase;
Don’t they know it was He,
Who formed the first masterpiece?
The Great Sculptor and Artist is He,
Without whom their lives would cease.

Yet let us not scorn their art
For there is still beauty to be found
In their works which imitate
The work of Him who’s crowned.
Though they don’t know it yet,
Their art reflect truths profound.

So let us revel in their talent
And admire their creations,
For such are skills He gives,
To cultivate every nation.
Let us remember to appreciate
The gift of Imitation.

To My One True Love

Dark and beautiful dost thou appear to me

Oh tempter of my soul.

Thy tender warmth and surface smooth

Lure me under thy control.

With sweet aromas thou dost beckon me

From my cocoon each morn;

To live without thy comforting presence

Would be a loss too great to mourn

Thou art the only reason I live each day;

I am energized by thy affects.

And with they helping hand thou dost keep

Me from saying things I would regret.

I could never describe thy perfection,

For it art higher than Heaven.

The greatest earthly joy could never compare,

Even if multiplied by seven.

 Oh how intensely do I cherish thee,

Dear sweet and magnanimous coffee.

Too Much Noise

She smiles not, nor takes delight
At the cause of their excite.
Summoning all within her,
She struggles to remain polite.

A deer caught in the headlights,
She strives with all her might,
Not to run and not to scream,
Though her heart constricts so tight.

Their voices continually rise,
And their laughter intensifies.
As it echoes off the walls,
Her soul within her cries.

I can’t get a word in edgewise!
She speaks through agitated eyes.
Her fear is morphing into flame,
And her propriety quickly dies.

In her skull it could be found,
Their chatter bouncing round.
The stress lies just beneath the surface;
Tightly as a clock she’s wound.

Under duress her voice’s drowned
And chained to Stress she’s bound.
Claustrophobia invites itself in,
And her vexation mounds.

“Stop! Stop! Stop!” she finally screams,
“I’m tearing at the seams!”
Her plea is met with silence,
For her outburst was quite extreme.

Her reputation, once highly esteemed,
Shall never be redeemed.
But does she care? Heck no!
And for the first time, she beams.

“Ahh…peace” she sighs.

Notes From Underground

Good Sunday afternoon everyone, and thanks for checking out my very first book review!

Today we are celebrating the amazing life and work of one of the world’s greatest writers of all time: Fyodor Dostoevsky. And no, this not the day of his birth, or the anniversary of his debut novel; it isn’t annual “Dostoevsky” day or anything significant like that. I simply wanted to share with you my newfound interest in his novel Notes From Underground; I just finished reading it and completely fell in love.

But before I jump into the review, let’s talk really briefly about Ted (Fyodor is the Russian version of Theodore). His life just astounds me, honestly. Though he lived in dire poverty and suffered from epileptic seizures for a good part of his middle-aged career, he still managed to publish 15 novels within his lifetime. How crazy is that? After learning about his life and the hardships he underwent, I have an incredible amount of respect for him. How many times have I complained that there are never enough hours in the day to fit in writing? And yet here was a man who managed to devote several hours every day to cultivating his passion even whilst carrying the burden of financial pressure and physical illness!

Ted lived a life of extremes. Coming out of college, he joined a group of Romantic Socialist radicals who plotted the downfall of the Russian Tsar, which eventually led to his arrest and mock execution. He was promptly sent to Siberia, a merciful alternative to the death sentence, where he served for several years. After his return home, he was a strikingly different man; abandoning the Egotistical/Socialist views of his youth, he committed the rest of his life to writing down his observations of human nature and mankind’s innate tendency towards evil. What made him so remarkable, however, was his empathy towards young radicals. While most writers of his age were advocating for harsher punishment on those young people who were intoxicated with the romantic ideals of Socialism, Dostoevsky was sympathetic. Though he disagreed with their ideas, labeling them unrealistic and even harmful to society, he understood, and even commended, their inner yearnings for a better world. Dostoevsky became a great role model for the young people he came in contact with, and his books, though addressed to a past century, still hold great significance in our present day.

Notes From Underground is the story of “the underground man”, a man at war with himself. A walking contradiction, the underground man constantly bemoans his faults and failings and despises himself for them, yet remains unable, or shall we say, unwilling, to accept the remedy for his problems. The beginning of book I opens with the underground man lamenting his “sickness” yet refusing to ask for help: “No, sir, I refuse to be treated out of wickedness” (Dostoevsky, Part I, 3). For to accept the cure, he must first acknowledge his failings, his passions, his vulnerabilities, and his vanity and pride; to do so would contradict his insistent belief that man is governed by reason alone. He glorifies the Russian romantics who cling to science and reason (“He’s a broad man, our romantic, and the foremost knave of all knaves…the romantic is always intelligent” [Dostoevsky, 46]). It is precisely this idea of the intelligent romantic that both fascinates and tortures him. For though he is convicted of his faults, he stubbornly refuses to let go of his ever-inflating ego. In the end, it is the underground man’s pride, and unrealistic ideals for humankind, which seal his fate and doom him to the isolated underground of his mind.

At the heart of Notes from Underground is this idea of mankind’s innate selfishness. Man is not a cold, calculating machine that operates on reason alone, as the underground man consents in Part I, pg. 31, (“he [man] would still not come to reason, but would do something contrary on purpose, solely out of ingratitude alone”), but rather a passionate and violent creature that, when left to his own devises, will never be satisfied. “I think the best definition of man is: a being that goes on two legs and is ungrateful” (Dostoevsky, 29). The rational egoist claims that if every individual strives to satisfy his or her own desires, everyone will get along in perfect harmony. Dostoevsky shows the folly in this lofty ideal through the split personality of his underground man, the man who thinks himself above everyone else because he reads a lot of books on romantic socialism, yet doesn’t know how to come to terms with his personal failings and the failings of the people around him. We see this in Part II when he attends a dinner party with his old school “friends” and he thinks to himself: “‘Lord, is this any company for me!… These oafs think they’ve done me an honor by giving me a place at their table; they don’t realize that it’s I, I, who am doing the honor, and not they me!’” (Dostoevsky, 73). In convincing himself of his own superiority, he loses the ability to interact with other people around him.

              Notes from Underground does not end on a happy note (no pun intended). The underground man humiliates himself in front of his friends, scorns the love of the young girl Liza, with whom he might have finally found redemption, and concludes his monologue with a tone of despair and hopelessness. The man was never able to let go of his vanity, and it consumed him.

However, this book is not meant to be depressing; it’s meant to be illuminating. If you read between the lines, you will find that Dostoevsky provides the answers you may or may not have even known you were looking for. And that is precisely what makes this novel so beautiful. In a world of seeming discord and depression and all things BAD, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. At the end of the novel, the protagonist is given the power to escape the “prison” in which he dwells (by accepting Liza’s forgiveness and outstretched hand), but, (spoiler alert!) he chooses to cling on to his pride rather than take that giant leap of faith and exit the underground.

The underground is not locked from the outside as we might like to believe; it is locked from the inside. The underground man, and thereby we, the readers, have the power to escape. So Dostoevsky leaves us with this choice: will we choose to turn the key?

Notes From Underground is a complex work of art that you do not want to miss out on!  I am so grateful for my professor who introduced me to the wonderful world of Dostoevsky, and I hope you have been encouraged to give his work a try.

Happy Reading!

-Obstinate Owl

A Little Lonely Seashell

This is a poem I wrote a few summers ago after visiting the beautiful beaches of Cape Cod. It is intended for young children.

A little lonely seashell
Sits on the banks of the shore
Waiting for some small boy or girl
To pick her up off the floor.

She watches as the tide recedes
And seagulls come out to play
And the sun that rises overhead
As she sits and wastes away.

All her life she has watched
As children race out on the dunes,
Enchanted by the salty sea
That plays such bewitching tunes.

She looks on with envy as
Other shells are picked,
Shells with prettier hues
who are more likely to be nicked.

Until one eventful day
Oh! To her delight!
Does she spot a little boy
Come toddling into sight.

As his shadow passes overhead
She sits impatiently on the sand,
Anticipating being scooped up
In his small and chubby hand.

Yet-Oh!-to her dismay,
And with a great big sigh,
Our little shell is ignored
For a hermit crab passing by!

Plucked up from his sandy home
The crab is captured in the hand
To be borne away against his will
To some new and frightful land.

And our poor little seashell;
How does she mourn, she is so sad!
She wishes with all her might
She could replace that ungrateful crab.

All alone she waits
As day turns into night,
But no one comes to rescue her
Or save her from her plight.

A little lonely seashell
Sits on the banks of the shore
Hoping the next boy or girl
Will pick her up off the floor.

 

 

Nature Overlooked

Every day’s a miracle,

Which few will ever see.

For in the rush of day to day

 We miss it utterly.

Do we ever pause to watch

The sun rising ‘bove the trees?

Or cherish the flowers

Playing host to busy bees?

Or are we so caught up

Encumbered by our plans,

To cherish the perfection

Of things untouched by man?

Nature takes a backseat,

Though its charge is free

For busy schedules, which confuse

Our priorities entirely.

What a tragic irony!

We miss the best of life;

In our haste to live,

Our pursuits become the knife.