I’m not so sure that there’s a “right” time to read a book. However, if there is I definitely read The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan at the right time. The Opposite of Loneliness is a collection of fiction and non-fiction essays written by Marina Keegan during her undergraduate years at Yale. Five days after her graduate, she was killed in a car accident on her way to celebrate with her family and boyfriend. In an effort to honor Marina’s legacy, her parents and professors selected several of her essays for compilation, resulting in this book. “The Opposite of Loneliness” is the title of an essay that went viral after her death in 2012.
I went into this book with a lot of preconceived judgments. Although I understand that everyone at Yale is so much smarter and more motivated that I am, I just don’t believe that. There’s so much privilege and prestige that is unnecessarily given to the ivy leagues, that I find myself proceeding with caution whenever I realize someone has studied at one of them. Secondly, in the times of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and so many others – how is society really praising their lives? Where are their books, their musings, their writings? Terrible I know, but I can’t help but see the privilege that Marina’s parents were able to publish her works into a novel. Despite these notions, I still requested the book through inter-library loan. I received the book just a few days before I found out that one of my friends and classmates from college had died just a few days before his 28th birthday. Having recently moved back to New England, I had lost contact with a lot of my friends and classmates through my move to the Midwest. As I work my way around the states, I find myself catching up on the old times and remembering why these people were a part of my life to begin with…but there isn’t enough time for everyone.
As I read the first couple of essays in Marina’s collection, I was skeptical, disliked several, and overall felt unimpressed. Then I attended the wake and services for my college friend. Throughout the services I kept thinking about his parents. Being an only child myself (as he was), I couldn’t even begin to imagine the grief that they felt nor would continue to feel after he was laid to rest. Upon returning home, I found myself locked outside of my apartment (thanks work!) with ample time to finish the book. As I read the rest of Marina’s essays (her non-fiction voice, being MUCH stronger than her fiction voice), I thought about Marina and my friend and wept for them. Two incredibly intelligent people, whose time was cut too short on this earth.
As far as The Opposite of Loneliness is concerned, Marina was an excellent writer. I think she would be upset to find some of these clearly unfinished essays in this book, but there’s no doubt that she had a sound literary voice. I particularly think that she might have had a knack for investigative non-fiction, particularly in the time of Making a Murderer and Serial. By the end of the book, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of the appreciation that her parents and professors had about her talent during her short time on earth. And honestly, if publishing these essays gave her parents any solace at all – I’d pay to give them just a little bit more.
Until Next Time World…