I just finished my first book of the summer, The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. Before I knew much about the young writer, I was captured by the cover. Marinas red hair and slight smirk was before me with the title stamped across her mustard peacoat. First, I thought, I want to be that girl; I want that outfit and that hair and that smile. Second, I thought, what a play on words: the opposite of loneliness. What does that mean? And is there really no word to describe that feeling? Truthfully, I’m not mad there isn’t. The phrase has a ring to it don’t cha think?
What I didn’t realize was that Marina Keegan was dead. That girl I envied on the cover had passed away a few days after graduating from Yale University in 2012. Her boyfriend had been driving the two of them to Marina’s summer home in Cape Cod when he fell asleep at the wheel. He survived while Marina did not. With a future already lined up for her at the New Yorker, Marina had been an impeccable student, author, journalist, activist and actress to name the few. She wrote for the Yale Daily News (my very own real world Rory Gilmore), served as president of the Yale College Democrats, and had time during her senior year to intern once a week at the Paris Review in New York.
But I didn’t know Marina. And this isn’t supposed to be her grand introduction speech to some award she received. This is to point out that beside from her long list of achievements, Marina was cool as shit. And in tune with being 20, and 21 and 22. In tune with where she was in her life. And I’ll tell you something, this book is packed with feels. So many feels you won’t know what to do with them. Marina knew what it was to be afraid of life, and unsure of what her next step was or what she wanted to do. None of the other bullshit matters. What matters are the stories.
When I finally stopped staring at her on the cover (creepy? whatever.) I read the first line of the first fiction piece, Cold Pastoral, and thought “god dammit this girl is gonna be good. and god dammit I want to be the author of that sentence.” It read: “We were in the stage where we couldn’t make serious eye contact for fear of implying we were too invested.” I love sentences. Especially ones that make me jealous I didn’t write them. And that wasn’t the last sentence I fell for.
My favorite pieces were first few fiction stories including, Cold Pastoral, Winter Break, and The Ingenue. Because these ones were the heart of what I felt this book was meant to accomplish, that opposite of loneliness thing. That even when things are fucked up, there’s still something in that. Maybe it’s naive and maybe i’m just rambling, but I guess I just wish that I could keep reading her work, or at least just sit down with her and have a cup of coffee. That would be nice too.