As her family, friends, and classmates, deep in grief, joined to create a memorial service for Marina, her unforgettable last essay for the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” went viral, receiving more than 1.4 million hits. Even though she was just twenty-two when she died, Marina left behind a rich, expansive trove of prose that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation.
The Opposite of Loneliness is an assemblage of Marina’s essays and stories that, like The Last Lecture, articulates the universal struggle that all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.
In “Why We Care about Whales,” look for how Keegan man- ages the transitions between evocative descriptions, scien- tific research, individual experiences, whale-based crises, human suffering, a specific call to action, and the narra- tive of the dying whale.
Young writers might even color- code the individual “modes” to see when, how, and why Keegan shifts her focus.
What details are most effective in shaping these shifts in voice, and how does Keegan craft the moments of final realization?
What is the effect of the story’s non-chronological sequencing and splicing of scenes?In addition to these examples of physical blindness, which stories include characters metaphorically blind to what lies before them? Specific mentions of Keats, Swan Lake, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, Othello, Islamic architecture, Shakespeare, Monet’s lilies, Hemingway, Milton, and libraries appear throughout this collection.How do these scholarly and artistic references enhance the more informal tone of Keegan’s prose? The last paragraphs of individual stories are worth careful examination and rereading.She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker.Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.Yet many readers have found its message to be universal, evoking their own days at college, at camp, or in any other tight-knit community. After reading this piece, have you realized you want to reevaluate any- thing in your own life?What makes Keegan’s words apply to any group of people who have found a powerful sense of connection? Given her sense of possibility and hope, as well as the permission to fail, is there some goal or project you now feel empowered to pursue? Some reviewers have responded most powerfully to Keegan’s nonfiction, while others find the fiction more compelling. Does this choice match your usual preference for fiction or non- fiction?Marina Keegan (1989-2012) was an award-winning author, journalist, playwright, poet, actress, and activist.Her nonfiction has been published in The New York Times; her fiction has been published on New Yorker.com, and read on NPR’s Selected Shorts; her musical, Independents, was a New York Times Critics’ Pick.Another way to examine a writer’s internal structure is to physically cut up a copy of a piece and then try to reassemble the individual paragraphs in the original order; try this with “I Kill for Money.” 19.“Against the Grain” is particularly poignant and personal as it captures the voice of an exasperated teenager who comes to appreciate the lengths to which a parent will go to care for her child.