May 2, 2014

The Opposite of Loneliness

Harvard Book Store welcomes ANNE FADIMAN, RATNA GILL, LUKE VARGAS, and the family of Marina Keegan for a reading and discussion of Keegan's posthumously published The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories.


Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. 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.

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. She had struck a chord.

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.

"Many of my students sound forty years old. They are articulate but derivative, their own voices muffled by their desire to skip over their current age and experience, which they fear trivial, and land on some version of polished adulthood without passing Go. Marina was twenty-one and sounded twenty-one: a brainy twenty-one, a twenty-one who knew her way around the English language, a twenty-one who understood that there were few better subjects than being young and uncertain and starry-eyed and frustrated and hopeful. When she read her work aloud around our seminar table, it would make us snort with laughter, and then it would turn on a dime and break our hearts." —Anne Fadiman, Yale University Professor of English and author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and Ex Libris

About Author(s)

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, and read on NPR’s Selected Shorts; her musical, Independents, was a New York Times Critics’ Pick. Marina’s final essay for The Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” became an instant global sensation, viewed by more than 1.4 million people from 98 countries.

Anne Fadiman is the author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall DownEx Libris, and At Large and At Small. As the Francis Writer-in-Residence at Yale, she taught Marina Keegan in a class on first-person writing in 2011 and had the opportunity to spend a good deal of time with her that year and the next. She is honored to have worked alongside Marina's parents shepherding The Opposite of Loneliness through publication and to have been asked to write its introduction.

Marina and Luke Vargas became friends in high school, at a time when they were both involved in the 2008 presidential campaign. Although they attended different colleges, they stayed very close. When Marina was awarded research funding from Yale in the summer of 2010, she cleverly found a way to divert a portion her winnings to pay Luke’s way to India, where they spent a summer studying the spread of humanism. Luke currently lives in Brooklyn and works as a foreign affairs reporter based at the United Nations.

Ratna Gill is a sophomore at Harvard College who met Marina and watched her recite poetry while visiting Yale in 2011. She and Marina used to exchange messages about their writing and about college life, and Marina's words have had a huge influence on Ratna's personal written work.