The Opposite of Loneliness
by: Marina Keegan
I gave this 4 but it's a strong 4.5 in the pretend world where I use 1/2 stars. I REALLY liked this book. It's been a long time since I've found a book of short stories and essays that I enjoyed reading AND found so much inspiration for my own writing. Once I was finished reading, I literally picked up my pen and begin to write as soon as I put down this book.
I read this book because of the tragic death of Marina Keegan. I doubt that had she not died that this book would have been published. I do NOT doubt that she would have been very successful, but these stories were created and worked on as she was learning her craft--just think of what she could have created given years of experience and time for observing more LIFE.
One of my favorite things about Keegan and this book is her amazing talent to bring you immediately into a story (which is incredibly important for short stories and essays because you are working with such limited space). These are some of my favorite first lines (which is basically all of them minus like 3 I think, but I couldn't narrow it down):
“Cold Pastoral” -- We live in the stage where we couldn’t make serious eye contact for fear of implying we were too invested.
“Winter Break” -- I was stoned when I saw the eskimoed figure crunching down the street with a flashlight and a cocker spaniel.
“Reading Aloud” -- On Mondays and Wednesdays at 4:30pm, Anna takes off her clothes and reads to Sam.
“The Ingenue” -- The biggest fight in my relationship with Danny regards his absurd claim that he invented the popular middle school phenomenon of saying “cha-cha-cha” after each phrase of the Happy Birthday song—an idea his ingenious sixth-grade brain allegedly spawned in a New Jersey Chuck E. Cheese and watched spread across 1993 America with an unprecedented rapidity.
“The Emerald City” -- Laura darling, I stopped carrying my gun today.
“Hail, Full of Grace” -- At the Unitarian Universalist Christmas pageant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it didn’t matter that Mary insisted on keeping her nails painted black or that Joseph had come out of the closet.
“Sclerotherapy” -- Karen found out the tattoo of the Chinese character on her right ankle actually meant soybean after she got it.
“Why We Care About Whales” -- When the moon gets bored, it kills whales.
“Putting the “Fun” Back in Eschatology” -- If you didn’t already know this, the sun is going to die.
“I Kill for Money” -- Tommy Hart swings a dead mouse back & forth by its tail & grins.
And she had so many final lines that were impactful and beautiful, too. Keegan had an incredible talent for observation and writing about things that both seemed relatable for her--young adults finding their way in the world (super corny and she does a much better job describing and addressing this)--and also writing about things or people that seem so outside of her world--like an elderly woman taking off her clothes while reading to a blind man. But the emotions that she writes about--love, loneliness, happiness, despair, contentment, curiosity, life, and death--she describes in such beautiful, universal ways.
I'll just end with: read this book!!!
Curious about how I rate books? Read about my scale here. Warning: it's super scientific.
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