(This is the first of my Book Talk posts here on the blog! These will not be long reviews, but I will be giving an overview of my thoughts on various books and sharing my honest opinion on them).
Title: The Opposite of Loneliness
Author: Marina Keegan
Released: April 2014
Goodreads Synopsis: An affecting and hope-filled posthumous collection of essays and stories from the talented young Yale graduate whose title essay captured the world’s attention in 2012 and turned her into an icon for her generation.
Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.
As her family, friends, and classmates, deep in grief, joined to create a memorial service for Marina, her unforgettable last essay for the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” went viral, receiving more than 1.4 million hits. She had struck a chord.
Even though she was just twenty-two when she died, Marina left behind a rich, expansive trove of prose that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation. The Opposite of Loneliness is an assemblage of Marina’s essays and stories that, like The Last Lecture, articulates the universal struggle that all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.
My Goodreads rating: 4/5
I know a lot of readers took issue with the fact that Marina and her work were placed on a pedestal, seemingly just because she had passed so young and with such promise. I can understand this to an extent, as it can be harmful to place such high standards on someone and to say that they or their work were completely perfect. But I do not believe that this work should be criticized just because of the circumstances under which it was released.
Marina was not perfect. Her work was not perfect. She had a lot to learn about writing. But her potential was in her passion. You can tell that she had a true love for what she was doing. Of course she had work to do, improvements to make–all writers can improve, especially young ones–but she so clearly wanted to do that. A professor of hers referred to her as a “demon reviser”, which says to me that she may have even been upset about seeing this work published in the shape it was in. But I can see that her family and loved ones clearly just wanted her work to be known. They did not want all of her words to die with her.
Yes, part of the reason it got published and got the attention it did could be because of the story surrounding it, but that does not mean that Marina’s work wasn’t worth it. She had a voice, and it deserved to be shared in whatever way it could be. What I most liked about this book was that it felt like I was in class with someone, learning alongside them. I enjoyed getting to read Marina’s stories, and I felt like I was learning something about writing–both things to take with me into my own writing, and things both she and I could improve on–as I was reading. This is a nice, easy read, especially for writers.