This is the second installment of Book Club, bringing you books of all kinds to feed a creative & beautiful life. This segment runs the first Friday of every month to stimulate creative energy & passion for your weekend & throughout the month ahead. Please feel free to discuss the book (or give book recommendations) in the comments, & enjoy this month's pick: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan.
This is actually the second time I've read this book. My friend Maddie lent me her copy a few years ago & I devoured it in like a day - with a whole lot of emotions. I then came across a copy in the Amazon Books store a few weeks ago (yes, an Amazon brick & mortar bookstore. I'm a little upset by how much I love it) & I knew I needed to add it to my library.
This book is a collection of essays and stories written by Marina Keegan, a Yale graduate who died in a car crash just days after her graduation. Her writing shot to fame after her final essay went viral following her death. It's a reflection on her time at Yale and the feelings of love, community, support she found there - feelings that don't quite have the all the words to describe them, yet she captures these feelings in the essay's title: "The Opposite of Loneliness".
What impressed me upon reading this book the second time is how genuinely talented of a writer she was. When I first read it, I think I was kind of a ball of emotion & I was upset that she had died & it didn't seem fair & I enjoyed the book but I couldn't really appreciate it for its literary skill. Now, a few years later & with her story less raw in my brain, I could read her words for their skill, precision, & above all - honesty.
She was young, & unapologetically so. As Yale professor Anne Fadiman notes in the forward, she doesn't sound like a college student trying to be a 30-year-old. She's definitely a college student. She writes about what she knows, whether that be boys, family dynamics, celiac disease, or her concerns about so many of her friends & classmates going into finance or consulting careers instead of following their passions. She manages to write intelligently & lyrically without losing her young, optimistic voice.
This greater appreciation for Marina's skill isn't to say that I didn't finish the book with the same emotions I felt last time: anger that she died so young, sadness that the world lost such a beautiful soul, curious what she would have been able to do had she lived. But above all, I finished the book with a sense that we all need to live a little more like Marina. Urgent, full, & plowing ahead in the direction of our dreams.
I wish there was more to read. I wish I could offer another book that she's written or an essay she recently published. Instead, I'll just say that if you haven't read this book, please do. The writing & the message are too powerful to pass up.
I picked two, because I couldn't settle for just one.
"We're so young. 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 consciousness 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."
(page 2 - from the essay "The Opposite of Loneliness")
"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
I won't know if you'd wanna leave your shadow next to mine."
(page 141, from the poem "Nuclear Spring")
It's important to live fully & live well now. In the present. Marina's writings (both fiction & nonfiction) have this kind of urgency and thirst for life that I think is especially present in college students. She desperately pushes her classmates to not forget about the sense of possibility. As an honor to her memory, I think we should all do the same.