Book Review: The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

18143905Edition: Hardcover, 240 pages
Published by: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, Short Stories
Rating: 3 feathers

Call me shallow but the only reason why I even picked up this book was because Emma Watson tweeted it.

I saw this book in Waterstones and I didn’t exactly know what it was about. At a first glance, (this was a theory on judging a book by its cover) I thought it was about a street style photographer who went around the city and asking well dressed individuals about their opinions on ‘The Opposite of Loneliness.’

“Do you wanna leave soon?
No, I want to enough time to be in love with everything…
And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.”

Marina Keegan graduated from Yale University in 2012. The future was looking bright and there was so much to look forward to. She had written a play that was about to be produced at the NY International Fringe Festival and a job as an Editorial Assistant waiting for her at the New Yorker magazine. But then she tragically died in a car crash five days after graduation. ‘The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories’ is a memoir to remember Marina Keegan not because she tragically died, but because she was good at writing.

“What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating from college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.”

I really liked her essay on ‘The Opposite of Loneliness,’ it is my favourite out the whole book. It was so meaningful and it was the kind of essay you’d write for a Valedictorian speech. She was so grateful for Yale; grateful for the opportunities she was given and grateful for all the friends she’s made, but afraid of losing it all once she graduates. It’s an aspiring essay.

The introduction by Anne Fadiman gave me an idea of what kind of student Marina Keegan was at Yale, which was happy, energetic and smart. According to Fadiman, most students write like a forty-year-old, however she stated that Marina was different. She was twenty-one-years-old and her work was written like a twenty-one-year-old.

This book is divided into two sections, fiction and non-fiction. Ironically, I thought her short fiction stories were better than her actual essays.

From her short fiction stories, the story that really stood out for me was ‘Reading Aloud.’ As for the rest of the stories, it was going a bit downhill for me. Don’t get me wrong; Marina is an exceptional good writer. This book is proof of how good she really is. The vocabulary, description and sentences were very thought-out and I appreciated how it was written, but it doesn’t mean I enjoyed the stories. Since they’re short stories, it ends there and there’s no continuation to it, so it means I get no closure. Oh well.

For her essays, I liked ‘Against the Grain’ because it was a very personal essay. Marina has celiac disease. She can’t eat anything that has gluten in it and struggles to live with it. She says that its no big deal, but it is a big deal. She felt embarrassed about her overprotective mum fussing over her. I didn’t like the ‘I’d Kill for Money’ essay because it was like a story rather than an essay; I found it boring. I’m going to sound bias since I am so fascinated by astronomy, that’s why I liked ‘Putting the Fun back in Eschatology.’ One day, the sun will die because it will run out of fuel becoming a giant red star, but that won’t happen in several billion years.

‘Even Artichokes Have Doubts’ is another good essay because it’s so relatable. It reminds me of myself. It’s the day you graduate from university and decide which job you want to do. Do you pick a job because it’s well paid but it’s not what you studied, or do you follow your dream? It’s sad that not everyone goes directly into the job they studied, but it’s the harsh truth. For me, choose a subject that you’ll love but one that also ensures you will secure a job at the end of it. But we all can’t get what we want sometimes.

“We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lie alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.”

It seems like the rating for this book is very mixed. That’s my reaction too but I did like it nonetheless. Marina sounds like she was the most talented in the class, however she both admires and envies the work of her classmates. It feels like she had such an observant awareness of the world, telling us that it’s a joke if you think it’s too late to do what you want to do. There’s so much to do and see, so much to achieve and we’re so young. Since she was told that it is hard to make it as a writer today, it was her stamina that made her determined to make it.

I actually didn’t want to book to end, knowing it’s the last thing Marina had written. Overall, I am glad I read it. I’ve had time to reflect on the book and think ‘wow that was a really good book,’ Marina’s writing was just amazing, very aspiring and influential. Just because I didn’t rate it higher than 3 stars, doesn’t mean it’s not worth the read. I recommend.

3

Book Review: The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan
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