The Opposite of Loneliness: Keegan’s Voice for a Generation

I just finished reading Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness, a collection of essays and short stories from a Yale graduate who died shortly after graduation in a car crash in 2012.

I don’t know if I would have picked up the book had I not known that the author had died at such a young age – that and she wanted to be a writer. In fact, she already was, with a job lined up at the New Yorker, and a play about to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival. Her last essay for the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” had received more than four million hits, mostly when others heard of her passing.

While I was on Scribner’s website, looking up a contact for work, it was this title that actually drew me to the posthumous book. She was only two years younger than me when she died. From the introduction, I didn’t think I would like the author’s voice. She seemed over eager, privileged, and too innocent, but I wanted to give her a chance. If I died and somebody published my essays postmortem, I would want someone to give me that chance so I added it to my Kindle queue. 

And maybe it’s the fact that these essays are her last published works that I fell in love with her voice and style? But I think it’s because she had a way with stories – her fiction had me thinking even days after I read it. I knew characters in 1,000 words better than some novels I’ve meticulously analyzed for months. Her nonfiction resonated with my former 22-year-old self. Like the reviews emulate, her voice speaks for a generation – for those of us lost in a post-collegiate world, finding ourselves among the ashes of financial ruin.

When I closed the final chapter, I was not satisfied, not because Keegan had left me empty, but rather I wanted more. It’s true the only reason I stumbled upon this book, and the only reason her family and friends pursued its publication was because she had died, but I was still sad because I wanted to hear more from this confident, heartfelt storyteller, an activist of language. I wanted to know how it is one makes their way as a writer these days, how one does not lose oneself in the reality of social expectation. I feel like Marina Keegan would have been able to tell me, or at least have something funny to say.

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