The Opposite of Loneliness
Marina Keegan died in a car crash five days after she graduated from Yale University in 2012. "The Opposite of Loneliness," an essay she wrote for commencement, went viral after her death. That essay becomes the titular piece of this posthumous publication, a series of short stories and personal essays. I started reading feeling weird that the main reason this collection got published was because of her death; as one reviewer noted, "if the reason people are reading her book is because they feel sorry or guilty somehow, doesn’t that undermine Keegan’s authentic dream to be admired for her writing, not for her biography?" As I started reading, I forgot that this had been published in remembrance of Keegan. It's just so enthralling and well-written. A Yale Professor who was close with Keegan edited the collection, and told the New York Times that she would be "beyond thrilled” at having published work, "but would add: 'Please pay attention to my ideas. Don’t read this book just because I’m dead.' Even if the more cynical among us argue that her work only got published because of her death, I would argue that her talent -- which shines through in an authentic voice -- cannot be ignored. I think most writers strive for authenticity; for Keegan, it comes naturally. When I didn't forget the circumstances of the publication was when there were uncomfortable tinges of sadness and real-life foreshadowing - when she writes about her ideal future, or how she would like to die, or from the perspective of a girl whose hookup-maybe-boyfriend has just died. Another reviewer writes, "The experience of reading this book is extremely and uncomfortably sad." Nonetheless, I think it was a valuable read irregardless of the context of the publication. I loved her short stories; they were inventive, touching, and realistic. I'll leave you with the quote from her poem Nuclear Spring (happy first day of spring!) that started off the "nonfiction" section that I adored:
So what I'm trying to say is you should text me back.
Because there's a precedent. Because there's an urgency.
Because there's a bedtime.
Because when the world ends I might not have my phone charged and
If you don't respond soon,
I won't know if you'd wanna leave your shadow next to mine.