Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

I posted this earlier in the week on my personal blog,!

I’m writing this because I can’t stand not to do so. In less than 24 hours and 208 pages, my life was changed. After hearing about Marina Keegan via a beauty-shop text from my mom, I bought her collection of essays and stories, The Opposite of Loneliness, on a whim before heading home for Easter on Friday afternoon. Needless to say, all it took was a four hour car ride and two cups of coffee on Saturday morning to finish the book and leave me absolutely speechless. As a young, aspiring writer, I related so deeply to Marina and feel some strange connection to her that I can’t even begin to explain.
Marina was killed in a car accident just days after graduating from Yale and after this piece, a tribute to her 2012 classmates, was published in the Yale Daily News. Everyone in the car was sober and wearing seat belts—making it the definition of a freak accident. She had a job waiting for her at the New Yorker and a play in production. As heartbreaking as her story is, Marina lives on in this post-humous collection of fiction and nonfiction essays and stories that was compiled by her mentors, teachers, parents, and friends. 

When someone passes away, I think that we sometimes have the tendency to put them on a pedestal, to sing their praises, talk about how wonderful they were, and inflate their accomplishments. That sounds harsh, but sadness leaves us no other option but to relish every bit of good that they contributed to the world. I wanted to read Marina’s book as if she was any other twenty-two year old writer, not in a “she had so much potential” sort of way. Once I started reading, I realized that she wasn’t going to allow me, or anyone for that matter, to read her work through a pitied lens. Marina’s writing is raw, yet pure. She focuses on a broad range of topics throughout the collection, yet writes in such a descriptive, detailed manner. Her work is something that confused, indecisive, bright, crazed young people can easily relate to, as can anyone who has ever been any sort of adolescent.
    Like I said, I feel like I know this girl. In an alternate universe, I think Marina and I would’ve been great friends. She reminds me a lot of myself as a writer, and based off of what I’ve read about her, as a person, too. It made me laugh when her mentor, Anne Fadiman, wrote in the introduction to the book, “As her parents and friends and I gather her work, trying to find the most recent version of every story and essay, we knew that knew that none of it was in exactly the form she would have wanted to publish. She was a demon reviser, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting even when everyone else though something was done.” I find myself struggling with finality all the time. Is anything ever truly done? I’m always looking to improve, to tweak just one last word to make the piece at hand perfect…but is perfection elusive in the world of art? Or better yet, is everything perfect even before it’s edited, flaws and all? In Marina’s case, I think untouched was exactly the way her work deserved to be read. There’s something about reading someone’s nearly unedited thoughts, their truest internal monologue, each feeling as it comes. 
"everything is so beautiful and so short."
  I’d be lying if I said that a part of me didn’t fall victim to the sadness that so many are experiencing with the loss of this magical young woman—I can only imagine the hurt that those who knew and loved her so personally must be feeling. Sure, it makes me sad to think that this will be Marina’s first and last published book and to think of “what could’ve been” for her in the future, but this girl lived. She did a lot of living and observing and passion seeking in her twenty-two years, and that makes me smile. Additionally, I was happier than I expected myself to be when I found out that The Opposite of Loneliness sold out in less than two days at Barnes and Noble…even if it was just the one on Bucknell’s teeny tiny campus.
    “Marina wouldn’t want to be remembered because she’s dead. She’d want to be remembered because she’s good,” says Fadiman. And that’s exactly what she is and will be for eternity—a good writer, a seemingly good human being, and a piece of goodness whose mark will forever be imprinted upon this place we call Earth.

Check out the piece that opens the book and was also published in the New Yorker.

Marina's reading of her poem, "Bygones" 
(which I am in love with and have watched countless times)

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