17 March 2015

Thoughts on The Opposite of Loneliness

Browsing the newly released books in our small town local bookstore, I paused in my tracks upon seeing a book jacket portraying a young woman in a yellow pea coat smiling brightly. When I picked up The Opposite of Loneliness and read the back cover, I was instantly jarred to read renowned Yale Professor, Harold Bloom, refer to the book’s author in the past tense. “I will never cease mourning the loss of my beloved former student Marina Keegan.“

The passing of a young woman leaves me thinking about what could have been—the talent, the beauty of a writer and reader of literature. I didn’t know Marina or even of her until the release of her book, but I was drawn to this young woman’s story because it reminded me of one of my former students, Morgan, who also died instantly in a car accident a year and a half after Marina’s tragic accident.

Instead of dwelling on what could have been, I find comfort in reading the writing left behind by Marina. A lover of nonfiction myself, I quickly read her short stories, aiming to speed through the nine works of fiction so I could feast on my favorite nonfiction. But then something happened while I was reading. Marina’s stories took me to different places, both literal and figurative, and I found myself devouring her fiction with rapid intensity.

From “Winter Break” in suburban Michigan when Addie is home from college on vacation hooking up with her boyfriend and visiting her parents as their marriage declines to “Reading Aloud” where Anna, an older woman, calls on Sam, a man who is blind, to read aloud to him his mail, his textbooks, his cooking directions. Marina’s writing transports us into the lives of ordinary people carrying on with life. The vast differences in the subject matter of the nine short stories struck me because some of the stories surely required research as they were well thought out beyond Marina’s 22 years. The stories conveyed a sense of hope, a hope we find when we connect with people. A feeling, the opposite of loneliness, that Marina found at Yale.

 In the essay with the same title as the book, The Opposite of Loneliness, optimism abounds. "We're so young. We're so young. We're twenty-two years old. We have so much time." Marina's last essay, written for the Yale Daily News upon her graduation went viral. Indeed, Professor Bloom's assessment of her talent reminds us of the "extraordinary promise that departed with her."