The Opposite of Lonely: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan
Marina Keegan died in a car crash 5 days after her college graduation; this book gathers the writing she did while in school, including the title essay, which I read online before I heard about this book. That essay is about the kind of feeling a lot of us get around graduation time: nostalgic, proud, happy, full of potential and possibilities, super close to all the friends who are about to scatter. I wrote a valedictorian speech along some of the same lines as this 12 years ago, and it only took about a year for me to feel like I’d manufactured that feeling because it was what I wanted to feel at the time. I don’t say that to cheapen Keegan’s experience and what it must mean to her friends now, but I do wonder how she would have looked back on this writing later on if she’d had the chance.
The cynical question is whether these stories would have been published if Keegan had lived. It’s impossible to say, but I think she had at least as much talent as several creative writing grad students I’ve known, with less experience. Some of the stories are typical subject matter for an undergrad workshop, young men and women in complicated relationships with each other, their exes, and their parents, but others are more far out, like the one set on a doomed submarine, or the one about the government contractor in Iraq sending hopeless emails. Some of them make me wonder how someone so young could have had the information and life experience to allow her to write these kinds of things, and that’s probably a sign she was the real deal. It’s a shame that this book is all of her we’ll ever have.