Book Review: The Opposite of Loneliness

Hello, Internet! It’s certainly been a while since I’ve written anything resembling a blog post, but alas, I’ve returned to my duty of maintaining this blog. Tomorrow will mark the two-month anniversary of the day I graduated from college and like many recent grads I’m basking in the summer sun before it is time to begin working.

While the season has surprisingly gone by quickly, I’ve fortunately been able to catch up on one of my favorite hobbies that usually fell by the wayside during my semesters at school: leisurely reading. Now, I vaguely remember saying that The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan was on my list of books to read for the spring, but life happens, am I right? So instead, I finished it over the summer and am now dedicating this post as a review of the book.

What can I say (well, technically write) about The Opposite of Loneliness? In a word, the book was fantastic. To be specific, the book is actually a compilation of short stories and essays written by Keegan. The author died a few days after she graduated from Yale University in a car accident. The Opposite of Loneliness was published after Keegan died—her parents, as well as her mentor, Anne Fadiman, compiled her works to make the book.

The Opposite of Loneliness begins with an introduction by Anne Fadiman and characterizes Marina Keegan as a promising writer who was strong willed and passionate about her craft. As an English minor, I loved reading Fadiman’s anecdotes on Keegan’s presence in the creative writing workshops and the notes she would write to her peers. Although the book lives on as Keegan’s predecessor, Fadiman’s introduction truly gave Keegan a voice beyond her stories and essays.

The first piece of the book was her extolled essay, The Opposite of Loneliness, which was originally published by The Yale Daily News. FYI, it can still be accessed on the YDN website. It’s a must read for anyone, but especially for recent or soon-to-be graduates. She describes the state of comfort that the college environment provides as the opposite of loneliness. The reason I love this essay so much (it’s my favorite piece in the book) is because Keegan has written an article that was meant to appeal to the students attending Yale, but sends a universally appealing message that almost every college student can relate to. The theme of the piece is rather simple: the world is our oyster, carpe diem, anything can happen, or any other type of cliche saying. However, the fact that many people have read the essay after Keegan’s death makes it all seem rather devastating. A young woman who was so ready and willing to seize life with its ups and downs was never able to experience it for herself, because her life was cut inexplicably too short. I first read this article about a month prior to graduating and it reinforced the idea that despite this stage in my life being a little unsettling with my future being up in the air, to take advantage of this time of uncertainty.

As I mentioned before, the book is a compilation of both works of non-fiction and fiction; therefore, there isn’t a ton of continuity between each piece, as readers would normally see when reading a book of essays or short stories. However, I liked several pieces of Keegan’s work, specifically The Emerald City, which is written entirely in a one-sided email form conversation. As an avid reader and writer, it was interesting to read the essay because the story and protagonist William’s relationship with his pen pal Laura progressively changes throughout the essay. I also enjoyed reading Reading Aloud, another short story. I love Keegan’s descriptions and thoughtful usage of dialogue in this piece. As a young writer, she effectively used section breaks and dialogue between the main characters, which can often times be a difficulty for younger writers.

The second half of the book is comprised of Keegan’s non-fiction pieces of work, essays. The first essay in this collection is called, Stability in Motion, which Keegan wrote about her car. Again, Keegan’s essay is extremely personal, yet the essay drips with nostalgia, as it is truly a universally appealing piece. Even if people never owned the same old Toyota like Keegan did at one point, there is still a sense of knowing what it feels like to have a car as a teenager and what it means for each reader to have that piece of machinery.

I feel like this book should be required reading for any person in, entering, or graduating from college. The concepts of each piece aren’t terribly challenging, but if you’re looking for more continuity in what you’re reading, consider looking elsewhere. If I was the Roger Ebert of book reviewers, I would give The Opposite of Loneliness 1 and ¾ thumbs up. A definite must read.