After asking students to make bookmarks with recommendations for next year’s students (see the post about Leaving a Legacy), Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness cropped up on more than one. I realized I recalled hearing about this text, but hadn’t read it, so a student lent it to me. The first essay, the title essay “The Opposite of Loneliness” was so compelling, I immediately ordered a copy of my own. I then photocopied that essay to share with all my seniors, as it was the perfect essay to say goodbye to them with and to remind them of Keegan’s words “we’re so young” as well as her sentiment that it is never to late to do the things you want to do.
Unfortunately, and ironically, Keegan died days after her graduation from Yale, and reading this book (a collection of fiction and essays compiled by Anne Fadiman, one of her professors at Yale) has a far more eerie sense when you realize the uncanny elements of some stories. For example, in one story, a young woman loses her boyfriend in a car accident, not unlike how she died. It is clear why The New Yorker had hired her on after graduation, and it is a sad loss of a young life as well as a gifted writer.
I plan to use not just the title essay, but also an essay she writes about her car, “Stability in Motion” where she explains the relationship she has with her car. I first read this essay because Jim Burke shared it with me, and re-reading it I realized the value it could have in the classroom as a model of our relationship with objects.
As per usual, here are some favorite quotes from the text. I encourage you to put this on your classroom library shelf, or even gift it to a recent high school or college grad.
- “What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over.”
- “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.”
- “And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.”