The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

Review:

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories - Marina KeeganI get stuck on the titles of books and this one got me. The cover is great too. I know it’s just a picture of the author, but her pose and expression and body language were endearing. It was like she wasn’t sure if this was a good idea but needed to say what she needed to see. She had to send it out into the ether and hoped for an echo that she doubted would come. Then I opened the book to discover that she had passed before it’s publishing and it was published by her family for her. She had wanted to make it in this business and they really honored that. It’s not a spoiler, it’s right in the forward, written by one of her teachers at Yale. Okay, it’s also in the back cover:

Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her atThe New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.

Marina left behind a rich, deeply expansive trove of writing that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation. Her short story “Cold Pastoral” was published on NewYorker.com. Her essay “Even Artichokes Have Doubts” was excerpted in the Financial Times, and her book was the focus of a Nicholas Kristof column in The New York Times. Millions of her contemporaries have responded to her work on social media.

As Marina wrote: “We can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over…We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.” The Opposite of Loneliness is an unforgettable collection of Marina’s essays and stories that articulates the universal struggle all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to impact the world. “How do you mourn the loss of a fiery talent that was barely a tendril before it was snuffed out? Answer: Read this book. A clear-eyed observer of human nature, Keegan could take a clever idea…and make it something beautiful” (People).

Most of the book is comprised of her short stories, which were rather good. I enjoyed each one for different reasons. I appreciated the way she looked at people, the way the stories were about their interactions more than anything else. They were clearly about the way people moved together or ground against each other. I think I would have enjoyed a novel had she had the opportunity to write one.

The essays were interesting for the same reason. They were snapshots of life when they were about people, but there were a few that were existential. Her opinion on the sun and the future of the planet were interesting. They certainly put a different spin on things for me. Her essay on having Celiac disease was perfect. It perfect encompassed the difference between dealing with something on your own and dealing with something as a parent. I hope her mother appreciated reading it, that before the end, Keegan was beginning to understand why it affected everything the way it did. I loved her thoughts on being special, on being heard, on sending something out to the ether.

I wish there could be more. Perhaps my appreciation is tainted by knowing there never could be, but I don’t think so. It’s nice to get a perspective on possibility from someone in their youth and I think I would have wanted to know how she felt about it down the road, but it just isn’t possible now. Perhaps someone else will take that torch. Until then, I’ll recommend Keegan.

I had gotten this book at the library, but it’s also available at Amazon and  the Book Depository.

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