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The Opposite of Loneliness + a Book Giveaway

Earlier this month, Tara shared a link on Facebook to Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed about writer Marina Keegan.  It was one of the saddest op-eds I’ve ever written since it was about Keegan’s first, and last, book since she died in a car crash in 2012, just five days after she graduated magna cum laude from Yale University.
Marina Keegan
Marina Keegan

Activist.  Writer.  Playwright.  Friend.  These are words used to describe Keegan in her obituary and in other articles I read about her after finishing Kristof’s piece.  Yael Zinkow, one of Marina’s college friends, said, “Marina was someone who looked at the world and knew it had to be changed, but at the same time saw there was beauty in it.”  After reading Marina’s final essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” which was published in the graduation edition of the Yale Daily News, I wanted to read her book, The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories.

I had a lump in my throat as I read the introduction by Anne Fadiman, one of Marina’s creative writing professors at Yale.  Marina was the kind of person that was a writing teacher’s dream.  She kept a notebook, which evolved into a file in her computer of “interesting stuff.”  When she applied to Anne Fadiman’s class on first-person writing at Yale, Marina described the interesting stuff writing as an addiction. “I add to it in class in the library, before bed, and on trains. It has everything from descriptions of a waiter’s hand gestures to my cab driver’s eyes, to strange things that happen to me or a way to phrase something. I have 32 single spaced pages of interesting stuff in my life” (xii).
Marina used those 32 pages of interesting stuff to help her compose first-person essays for Fadiman’s class, as well as fictional pieces for her other classes in her creative writing concentration at Yale.
I rarely read collections of short stories or essays since I’m more of a novel reader.  I was unsure of what to expect.  Would The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories be a collection that sounded like a college kid or an esoteric collection of writing?  It was neither.  And that’s because of Marina’s writing style, which Fadiman described in the introduction:
“Many of my students sound forty years old.  They are articulate but derivative, their own voices muffled by their desire to skip over their current age and experience, which they fear trivial, and land on some version of polished adulthood without passing Go. Marina was twenty-one and sounded twenty-one: a brainy twenty-one, a twenty-one who knew her way around the English language, a twenty-one who understood that there were few better subjects than being young and uncertain and starry-eyed and frustrated and hopeful. When she read her work aloud around our seminar table, it would make us snort with laughter, and then it would turn on a dime and break our hearts” (xii – xiii).
Portions quoted from The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan. Copyright 2014. Reprinted by Permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Portions quoted from The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan. Copyright 2014. Reprinted by Permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Fadiman worked with Marina’s parents and friends to gather the most recent versions of her essays and stories for The Opposite of Loneliness, which was a tough task since, “She was a demon reviser, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting even when everyone else thought something was done. (THERE CAN ALWAYS BE A BETTER THING.) We knew we couldn’t rewrite her work; only she could have done that. Still, every time I reread these nine stories and nine essays, they sound exactly like her, and I don’t want to change a word” (xvii-xviii).

I’m quite confident Marina would’ve been one of the shining stars of the 21st century literary world had she lived.  She’s gone.  Thanks to the due diligence of those closest to Marina, we are fortunate enough to be left with an exquisite collection of her writing.  Some stories (e.g., “Cold Pastoral,” “The Ingenue”) seemed like they grew out of Marina’s close observations of the world around her while others (e.g., “Sclerotherapy” and “Challenger Deep”) felt like she researched them intensively. My personal favorite was “Stability in Motion,” a personal essay about the 1990 Camry she inherited from her grandmother. It is full of rich descriptions, precise word choices, and gives you a true sense of who Marina was.  I can envision this essay, as well as several others, serving as mentor texts in high school writing workshops.

Do not buy The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories because Marina Keegan has died.  Buy Keegan’s book because she was a fantastic writer.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR?

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories. Many thanks to FSB Associates for sponsoring this giveaway.
  • For a chance to win this copy of The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories you may leave some thoughts about this book, Marina’s work ethic is a writer, or about her essay “The Opposite of Loneliness” in the comments section of this post by Wednesday, April 30th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. The following day I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner whose name I will announce at the bottom of this post by Friday, May 2nd.Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at FSB Associates will ship the book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field.)
    • Only commenters living in the United States of America are eligible to win a copy of this book.

Comments are now closed. Thank you to everyone who left a comment.

Sarah Binning’s commenter number was selected so she will win a copy of The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories.  Here’s what she wrote:

I have goosebumps as I read the excerpts. I too am an aspiring author. My passion for writing comes from my father. Even though he’s no longer alive, I’m happy to have his small, handwritten collection of short stories and poetry. We live on through our writing–and I’m so happy that Marina’s family and friends are willing to share her stories with us.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

27 thoughts on “The Opposite of Loneliness + a Book Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. I was in Books-a-million when the cover of Opposite of Loneliness caught my attention. I picked it up and completely forgot what I was shopping for for a moment. Maybe its because I graduate college in 3 weeks but I felt a connection with Keegan and her words.

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  2. I’m excited to read this book as I’d like to hear what 21-year-olds that write like 21-year-olds (not 45-year-olds) sound like, think like, etc. Such a shame she left the world too soon, but luckily we can get to know her through her writing.

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  3. I would love to read this book! Her essays are truly inspirational – the spirit and soul she embodied in her work is both thoughtful and contemplative. Ever since I read her title essay, I’ve wanted to read more of her writing. Thank you!

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  4. I would love to win a copy! I have been following Marina Keegan since I read her story through Buzzfeed. Since then I have read everything I could find of hers through the internet! I love it all. I haven’t bought the book yet.. But maybe I won’t have to now. *fingers crossed*

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  5. That is one of the things I have come to appreciate about writing; we will not be here forever, but our words, thoughts, feelings, ideas…those can. What we think, how we feel, who we are- these are all important. Many times, when I read a really awesome book, I feel the opposite of lonely. Writing can do that!

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  6. Thinking about this tragic loss, I realize just how important it is to leave words…words reveal the soul. In reality what a blessing to her grieving family. This will certainly be on my list of someday books. Thank you for offering this giveaway. Regardless, it must be read. I love the specificity of the “interesting stuff” file.

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  7. What a labor of love and intriguing story of a young writer. I love how you say, Do not buy this book because Marina Keegan has died. Buy it because she was a fantastic writer. I look forward to reading her words.

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  8. I have goosebumps as I read the excerpts. I too am an aspiring author. My passion for writing comes from my father. Even though he’s no longer alive, I’m happy to have his small, handwritten collection of short stories and poetry. We live on through our writing–and I’m so happy that Marina’s family and friends are willing to share her stories with us.

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  9. What a moving tribute to Marina! Rewriting is such a chore for my students. Once they’ve finished their first draft, a labor of love & sweat sometimes, they feel finished. Clearly Marina felt like there was always lots of fine tuning to be done.

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  10. Such a gift to be driven to write, to have found your voice while so young. Such loss for this young life to be cut short. Your review of Keegan’s book creates such personal interest into her process of collecting “interesting stuff”. I look forward to reading this book!

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  11. I am intrigued by the glimpses of this book that I am reading. I am thinking differently about the process of revision. As our life experiences change, so do our words. Isn’t our life always in the process of revision?

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  12. What an inspiration, she is for young writers. I am so curious to read about her perspective of The Opposite of Loneliness. Today I am adding a section to my writer’s notebook, Interesting Stuff in My Life.

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  13. I dream of a life with 32-single-spaced-pages of interesting… maybe her book will help me learn how to find it, and motivate me to capture it!! Sounds brilliantly wonderful!

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  14. Marina’s story, and the way in which her parents have sought to honor her memory, fills one with both sorrow and hope. I’m saving my just arrived copy for the summer – I want to savor it. Thanks for sharing this with the TWT community, Stacey.

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  15. The book sounds wonderful–Marina’s “interesting stuff” file makes me think of my own notebook, always in my purse, always ready to write down something that pops in my head. What an inspiration to us writers…and (thinking of her professor’s forward) us livers of life, to be ourselves loudly, not a diluted version of ourselves…

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  16. Absolutely a book I will read. I get the continuous revising. The blank page is the challenge to me. Revising has always been my favorite. Just leaving this comment I’ve backspaced many times and retyped.

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  17. This books sounds amazing. I would love to read it. I googled some of it to see her style. Refreshing for her age. She would have been something and the confidence shines through. I would have been inspired by her.

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  18. This sounds like an interesting book. I don’t enjoy the revision part of writing so it’s hard to imagine doing it beyond what was even needed. Your review sparks my interest! Thanks for adding to my reading list!

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