Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: The Opposite of Loneliness

In my efforts to tackle all of the reads I cannot purchase - as of right now... stayed tuned for details later this week! - I've been library-ing like a maniac, and this was one of the first holds I placed this summer once school got out. 

And it did not disappoint! 

The Opposite of Loneliness is a collection of essays and stories, written by Marina Keegan... but you can glean all of that from the cover.

What isn't so apparent, is that this young Yale grad's work doesn't just make up her first book... it's also her last, as she died tragically, less than a week after she graduated magna cum laude, and before she could take her place at the job waiting for her at The New Yorker. The title is derived from one of Marina's most-read works, an essay she wrote for graduation. 

There's this weird jealousy that is so particular to English majors... we have this absolute passion for the written word, and love all of the ways beautiful sentences can be strung together, but match that admiration with an underlying sense of "Why didn't I write that?" This is one of those kinds of things.

As someone going into her senior year in college, and hearing about all of the amazing things Marina was doing - had already done, was going to do - I was impressed, and a little bitter. The works inside this collection are marked with a lot of very real talent, finesse for language, and flair with narrative, and as someone who was a couple years and a country's length away from this young grad, I was highly invested in this book.

And, I don't know. Maybe it was the picture on the cover, or the earnest eagerness of the writing inside, but this is a girl I feel like I could have been friends with. Or, she could have been one of my friends, one of the many amazing people I go to school with, too. In that way, its publication, as a genuine representation of its creator, is one hundred percent perfect.

Tragically, though, I'm afraid that she will be one of those people who will foremost be known for being dead, which is really unfortunate, because her work is good. This book was a New York Times Bestseller, and had a NYT column dedicated to her from one of the current writers, but the fact of the matter is, there isn't anything else that is going to come from what she was able to write before she died... unless her family releases more of the work they sifted through to create this carefully-curated time capsule, a perfect portrait of an artist who was just winding up.

She'd had other works published before, just not in book format: with a musical - for which she had written the book - and a play already under her belt by 2012, Marina was poised for more than just articles, or essays. There could have been so much more for us to enjoy. And that's something that is inextricable from the enjoyment of her work here... underlying the optimistic, bubbly, and energetic voice highlighted in its pages, is a sense of loss.

If you'd like to read the piece Marina wrote for the Yale Daily News that lead to the creation of this book, it's available online. Still, I hope you'll read the book, too!

Final Verdict: College students, this is a must-read, if only as a reminder that life is short and fleeting, and while we're spending as much time as we can building a successful future, there's always a reason to live for today, too. "We're so young. We're so young."

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