In 2012, Marina Keegan was killed in a car accident. She was twenty-two. And she had graduated magna cum laude from Yale five days earlier, and was set to begin a career writing for The New Yorker. After her death,
Keegan’s parents and former professor sorted through her writing. The result is The Opposite of Loneliness: Stories and Essays.
The title – The Opposite of Loneliness – was taken from Keegan’s final essay for the Yale Daily News, in which she describes what she will miss most about college. As a (semi-) recent college grad, I loved this essay. One of the things I’ve struggled with post-college is the fact that its a million times more difficult to make friends. You can’t just start talking to the person sitting next to you in class, or go sit in the student center to read. There is no sense of community in the community library (ironically), and the pool of people you encounter on a daily basis has shrunk. Keegan captures this sentiment through the eyes of someone who is about to enter this “adult” world, and it is brilliant.
It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together.
I liked that this book contains both fictional short stories and nonfiction essays. Keegan’s short stories are wonderful and distinct – each about something different, whether it is a crew trapped in a submarine miles below the surface of the ocean or a couple dealing with personal conflict as they shop warehouse selling unclaimed items from TSA lost and found. Her essays are both introspective – “Song for the Special” – and eye-opening – “Why We Care About Whales” and “Even Artichokes Have Doubts”. Overall, they are some of the most honest pieces of writing I have ever read.
As I read this book, I was touched by the stories, and I couldn’t help but be conscious of the fact that these are the only stories we will ever get from Keegan. It definitely, in it’s own way, inspired me to write more. Keegan was only a few months younger than me, and she accomplished far more in a much shorter amount of time. It was really inspiring to see what she was able to do, and to see her raw talent. For someone so young, I was struck by how distinct her voice is.
I would highly recommend this book for any aspiring young writers or anyone who is about to graduate from college. It is, somehow, almost a coming-of-age book that is incredibly real for the millennial generation (which, technically, I belong to, although I don’t typically identify with it). I definitely liked some of the essays and stories more than others, but I didn’t dislike any of them, and I think they are all worth reading. My favorites were definitely “The Opposite of Loneliness”, “Why We Care About Whales”, and “Cold Pastoral”.
I want enough time to be in love with everything . . .
If you’re interested in Marina Keegan and her work, you can also read her essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness” – which went viral after it’s publication – for free on the Yale Daily News website – just click here.
Have you read this book (or “The Opposite of Loneliness”)? What are your thoughts?