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.


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