“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness,” writes Marina Keegan, “but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.”
So begins this beautiful collection of short stories and essays, written by Yale undergrad, Marina Keegan.
Here’s the shocking, heartbreaking truth about Marina’s book: it is a compilation of the works she left behind after her sudden death in 2012. The book’s namesake essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” was Marina’s final submission to The Yale Daily News, and is hauntingly fitting for such an unexpected finale. “We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time,” she writes before calling for world-changing action from her graduating class. She then transcribes her discovery of the opposite of loneliness at Yale, and she captures what it’s like to be a near graduate, about to step into the world for the first time with a sense of endless possibilities, mirrored by endless uncertainties.
This short, initial essay is the launch point for a book of writing that is meant to make us think and feel and hope and wish that Marina had more time to share her gift. At only 22, she left behind a plethora of work that speaks volumes of who she was and who she will be remembered as — that is, a woman of strength, experience, passion and confidence.
Both in fiction and nonfiction, she truly captures the human experience. She writes in such a way that forces us to believes she knows these things … Knows what it’s like to be in love (for real) for the first time, knows what it’s like when a friend dies, knows what it’s like to feel that unbearable void in your family during your first long break from college. She even makes us believe she knows things she certainly does not … Knows what it’s like to be blind, knows what it’s like to be sixty, knows what it’s like to go to war as a twenty-something-year-old kid. She writes fiction like she knows it, and like she’s lived it, and there is nothing more pleasurable to read than a writer who speaks in such a confident voice.
In the book’s nonfiction section, Marina chronicles a day in the life of a local exterminator. She gives life to his movement, heartbreak to his past and depth to his personality. She creates a whole real person the way she creates whole fake people — through captivating, emotional writing.
I read this book as slowly as possible in order to glean every bit of writing wisdom I could. I, too, live in Marina’s young world of infinite possibilities, with so much time to write and to live. By the end of this book, I realized that today’s “so much time” could be over in days or minutes or seconds, so we should think, speak and write vigorously now while we still live in the ignorance of so much time. We should seek the opposite of loneliness, and when we find it, we should capture it in a way just as brilliant as Marina’s essay. We should find our talents and passions while we are young and we should use them before we’re all grown up, with a multi-thousand dollar piece of paper in hand, and hold on to them even after we hang that piece of paper on the wall. We should understand our own position as a spec in the universe and nothing more, and yet, like Marina, we should strive to be a spec worth listening to because someday even this insane universe will not have so much time.
This was one of the best books I read this summer, and one that I will surely find myself reading again and again. This brilliant book reminds us all that our infinities are scarce, but today there is still time to do and be what you love.