Another month, another book! Thanks for joining me here to discuss our May CC Book Club pick The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. It’s a collection of short stories and essays, but I suppose that spoilers are still scattered throughout this review.
Marina Keegan was 22 years old when she passed away in a car accident, only 5 days after her graduation from Yale. She was a bright student and had already nailed down a job at The New Yorker. The whole thing is just a total and complete tragedy and becomes more so once you read any of her work. Marina was good – really, REALLY good. The first time I read her essay ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’ (yes, it’s the one the book was named after), I was a struck. Somehow, she managed to capture all of the feelings wrapped up in graduation and send her classmates off into the world with a little bit more hope. One of the things I love most about Marina’s work is that she writes like a 22 year old, not a 22 year old trying to pass as a 40 year old. She doesn’t try to fake all this life experience; she writes what she knows and what her audience knows. Her poems talk about college and texting and while this may alienate some older readers, it’s so refreshing to have a non-fiction writer that I can really relate to.
One of my favorite essays is called ‘Song for the Special’. In it, when discussing envy, Keegan says, ‘I blame the Internet. Its inconsiderate inclusion of everything. Success is transparent and accessible,’ and when I read that I just wanted to yell, ‘PREACH!’ No matter how good I feel about my academics, my fitness, my freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, once I log on to Facebook or Instagram, there’s hundreds of other people showing me how theirs is better. The internet and social networks are just a big game of comparisons. When you go to a concert now, do you feel like you need to snap a few great pictures or videos and put them on Instagram, almost in some desperate attempt to prove you were there (and how great your seats were). How sad is that? Why can’t my generation just attend a show and enjoy it for what it is? Why is it always about proving our worth to someone else?
But I digress.
The book is split into fiction and non-fiction. I think, overall, I liked the non-fiction better even though it took up only one-third of the book. As you can see, I feel like Keegan just gets me and reading her essays is like reading an email from a really great friend. I did enjoy some of the fiction a lot too (Cold Pastoral), but admittedly skipped ‘Challenger Deep’ and ‘Emerald City’ after reading a few pages.
It makes me feel slightly exploitative that a lot of the hype around this book is because Marina has died. Why do we always wait to enjoy someone’s art or praise them for it until after they’ve passed? But, I think that if her family didn’t want to share Marina’s work with the world, they simply wouldn’t have. And I’m so so happy that they did.
What did you think of The Opposite of the Loneliness by Marina Keegan? Please join us back here for our June CC Book Club featuring The Leftovers by Tom Perotta.