As part of my current non-fiction craze I have started reading Marina Keegan’s collection of essays ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’ (come on, you’ve heard about it) last night. For those who are not familiar with the ‘concept’ of the book: Marina Keegan, 22, brilliant, courageous, popular, died in a tragic car crash (I’m making this sound way too trivial…) and friends and family decided to publish her (also brilliant) essays posthumously.
Now, I have just started reading it, meaning I’ve only read the introduction by one of her lecturers at Yale about how brilliant she was and how tragic everything is, the acknowledgements by her parents and the title essay (that I believe to be her graduation speech, but not entirely sure). And already the book troubles me. Well, it’s not the book that troubles me, really (it’s not you, it’s me!), but my emotional reaction to it.
I feel admiration, but strangely, also envy. She was literally living the dream. She was everything I want to be. She had it all: a supportive environment at Yale, a great (and pretty rich as far as I could tell, there was a mention of a summer house on Cape Cod and sailing) family (that could also pay for her tuition at private schools and an ivy league university), a loving boyfriend, great friends, and, last but not least, all the attributes that I wish I had: talent, courage, determination, grit. She had a job at The New Yorker lined up for after college, which I’d say is the definite dream of any liberal arts student pretty much.
But then feeling envy for a dread girl somehow feels wrong. After all, she never got to have that post-grad life we all want too, she had that tragic accident instead. And though she might have risen to world fame through this collection of essays, she cannot experience this moment, the moment where she has finally made it as a writer, the thing everyone told her was impossible which she pursued nevertheless.
It makes me sad, but I don’t think her book would have been such a commercial success had it been published while she was alive. People (including me, probably, sadly) don’t like to read essays by the brilliant girl that has it all and will have even more nearly as much as they like to read essays by the brilliant tragic girl that had it all and could have had so much more.
In a very morbid way, the fact that this remarkable lady is dead is lucky for me. I would not have been able to admire her thoughts and actions to this degree had I been blinded by envy (which would have by far outweighed the admiration). It allows me to fully take in what she has written and reflect upon it for myself, maybe learning from her even, with tons of admiration and only that tiny grain of envy.