After the tragic death of a 2012 Yale graduate, her parents and teachers decided to publish a collection of her fiction and non-fiction. The young author was Marina Keegan. The book is The Opposite of Loneliness, a spunky, yet polished, journey into the struggles of the young generation.
Throughout the collection, Keegan’s voice as a writer is effectively conveyed, which calls for a nod of appreciation to those who chose which pieces to include. Although Anne Fadiman, one of Keegan’s teachers, states in the introduction that Marina would have wanted to revise the pieces more before publication, they are nevertheless polished. None of the stories seems unfinished, and the essays are precise in their scope.
Always humorous, Keegan keeps her audience engaged through her shocking statements. For example, Keegan begins an essay about celiac disease with a list of items that she will instruct the nurse to bring her on her deathbed—goldfish, Oreos, cold beer—and the reader begins to wonder why these items are related. After a bit of suspense, Keegan reveals that these food items all contain gluten, which is harmful to those with celiac disease. (Keegan herself has the disease she is writing about.) It is a nostalgic way to begin an essay about a serious topic.
In both her fiction and essays Keegan does not refrain from writing about the struggles of her age, which led one critic to label her “a new voice of her generation.” Does writing about drug addiction and the pain of undefined relationships really make Keegan a superb writer though? Sure, Keegan expresses the moral longing of a generation, but she never comes to any answers. For some readers, this may be problematic. Is it okay to ask the questions, but not to answer them?
However, Keegan’s overall attitude towards the world remains one of hope. She senses the potency of her youth and seeks to convey this to her Yale classmates in the titular essay, “What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over.” Some of Keegan’s other essays, such as “Song for the Special,” point toward this hope and remind readers that they can change. And this is where Marina Keegan’s true brilliance as a writer lies—in sparking a light in her readers’ hearts.