The Opposite of Loneliness + a Book Giveaway

Earlier this month, Tara shared a link on Facebook to Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed about writer Marina Keegan.  It was one of the saddest op-eds I’ve ever written since it was about Keegan’s first, and last, book since she died in a car crash in 2012, just five days after she graduated magna cum laude from Yale University.
Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan

Activist.  Writer.  Playwright.  Friend.  These are words used to describe Keegan in her obituary and in other articles I read about her after finishing Kristof’s piece.  Yael Zinkow, one of Marina’s college friends, said, “Marina was someone who looked at the world and knew it had to be changed, but at the same time saw there was beauty in it.”  After reading Marina’s final essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” which was published in the graduation edition of the Yale Daily News, I wanted to read her book, The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories.

I had a lump in my throat as I read the introduction by Anne Fadiman, one of Marina’s creative writing professors at Yale.  Marina was the kind of person that was a writing teacher’s dream.  She kept a notebook, which evolved into a file in her computer of “interesting stuff.”  When she applied to Anne Fadiman’s class on first-person writing at Yale, Marina described the interesting stuff writing as an addiction. “I add to it in class in the library, before bed, and on trains. It has everything from descriptions of a waiter’s hand gestures to my cab driver’s eyes, to strange things that happen to me or a way to phrase something. I have 32 single spaced pages of interesting stuff in my life” (xii).
Marina used those 32 pages of interesting stuff to help her compose first-person essays for Fadiman’s class, as well as fictional pieces for her other classes in her creative writing concentration at Yale.
I rarely read collections of short stories or essays since I’m more of a novel reader.  I was unsure of what to expect.  Would The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories be a collection that sounded like a college kid or an esoteric collection of writing?  It was neither.  And that’s because of Marina’s writing style, which Fadiman described in the introduction:
“Many of my students sound forty years old.  They are articulate but derivative, their own voices muffled by their desire to skip over their current age and experience, which they fear trivial, and land on some version of polished adulthood without passing Go. Marina was twenty-one and sounded twenty-one: a brainy twenty-one, a twenty-one who knew her way around the English language, a twenty-one who understood that there were few better subjects than being young and uncertain and starry-eyed and frustrated and hopeful. When she read her work aloud around our seminar table, it would make us snort with laughter, and then it would turn on a dime and break our hearts” (xii – xiii).
Portions quoted from The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan. Copyright 2014. Reprinted by Permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Portions quoted from The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan. Copyright 2014. Reprinted by Permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Fadiman worked with Marina’s parents and friends to gather the most recent versions of her essays and stories for The Opposite of Loneliness, which was a tough task since, “She was a demon reviser, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting even when everyone else thought something was done. (THERE CAN ALWAYS BE A BETTER THING.) We knew we couldn’t rewrite her work; only she could have done that. Still, every time I reread these nine stories and nine essays, they sound exactly like her, and I don’t want to change a word” (xvii-xviii).

I’m quite confident Marina would’ve been one of the shining stars of the 21st century literary world had she lived.  She’s gone.  Thanks to the due diligence of those closest to Marina, we are fortunate enough to be left with an exquisite collection of her writing.  Some stories (e.g., “Cold Pastoral,” “The Ingenue”) seemed like they grew out of Marina’s close observations of the world around her while others (e.g., “Sclerotherapy” and “Challenger Deep”) felt like she researched them intensively. My personal favorite was “Stability in Motion,” a personal essay about the 1990 Camry she inherited from her grandmother. It is full of rich descriptions, precise word choices, and gives you a true sense of who Marina was.  I can envision this essay, as well as several others, serving as mentor texts in high school writing workshops.

Do not buy The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories because Marina Keegan has died.  Buy Keegan’s book because she was a fantastic writer.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR?

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories. Many thanks to FSB Associates for sponsoring this giveaway.
  • For a chance to win this copy of The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories you may leave some thoughts about this book, Marina’s work ethic is a writer, or about her essay “The Opposite of Loneliness” in the comments section of this post by Wednesday, April 30th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. The following day I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner whose name I will announce at the bottom of this post by Friday, May 2nd.Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at FSB Associates will ship the book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field.)
    • Only commenters living in the United States of America are eligible to win a copy of this book.

Comments are now closed. Thank you to everyone who left a comment.

Sarah Binning’s commenter number was selected so she will win a copy of The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories.  Here’s what she wrote:

I have goosebumps as I read the excerpts. I too am an aspiring author. My passion for writing comes from my father. Even though he’s no longer alive, I’m happy to have his small, handwritten collection of short stories and poetry. We live on through our writing–and I’m so happy that Marina’s family and friends are willing to share her stories with us.