PETRIe Contributor, Catherine Karellis, curates her top five books to add to your reading list this year. Having started with Reading Lolita in Tehran, divulged the beauty of The Art of Travel and discussed coming-of-age in The Cat’s Table. Next on her list is The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan.
The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories (Marina Keegan)
“We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lie alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out - that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialised. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.”
This posthumous collection of essays and stories successfully articulates what it means to be young: the confusion, the overwhelming idealism, the disillusionment with our parents’ mortality.
The short stories are the true standout in the collection: in Challenger Deep, we encounter five people trapped in a pitch-black submarine, thousands of feet under the sea with no hope of escape; in Cold Pastoral, a girl finds a scathing entry in her dead boyfriend’s journal comparing her both physically and emotionally to his previous girlfriend.
It is difficult to detach the book from its sad backstory: five days after graduation, Marina Keegan passed away in a car accident. But as Keegan’s creative writing professor, Anne Fadiman, writes in her preface to the collection, “Marina wouldn't want to be remembered because she's dead. She would want to be remembered because she's good."
To describe this book as ‘good’ is an understatement. Keegan’s collection is a lot more than that: it is an intimate, poignant, and often brutally honest conversation with the reader.
Words: Catherine Karellis