Monday, August 3, 2015

The Opposite of Lonliness, Marina Keegan

This was interesting, I think I saw it recommended by a GoodReads email. So I picked it up. I had very mixed feelings. Marina was tragicaly killed in a car accident 5 days after she graduated from Yale University. She had a promising future ahead of her, but it was cut short. This book was published posthumously (obviously) and the forward by a Yale Professor states that this book shouldn't exist. It only exists because she died and didn't have a chance to give the world more. They didn't edit anything further and felt that even Marina would have wanted to polish it more or not have it out there at all, but at the same time, wanted the world to meet her and sample what she was capable of at such a young age. The professor also states that with these types of things, we tend to build it up more than it is because of the situation.

This book is split into two sections, fiction and non-fiction. Unlike many readers, I did not enjoy the fiction nearly as much as the non. To me, the characters were fairly shallow, there was WAAAAY too much sex and drugs. Sure the emotions were raw, and maybe being in my mid-30s I'm out of touch with just how casual all sex, all relationships and all drug use is. But I felt like none of her characters, even when in a relationship, ever made love with thier partner. It was always just having sex. There's a difference. A BIG difference. And if young people, even in relationships are only having sex, then they are missing out on what physical intimacy is supposed to be about. And the drug. All the smoking, marijuana use, other drugs being referred to. Do smart, intelligent yuppy collegiates going to super ritzy schools like Yale REALLY do drugs like that so casually and recreationally? And then there was the homosexual characters. They felt forced. Like she felt compelled to make sure she represented that group in every piece of short fiction. Like she needed to prove a point. It didn't seem innocent or even like an aside; like the gay factor had to be forcibly pointed out. It felt odd in the sense that if would seem odd if every short story made sure to include several descriptions of multiple nationalities represented by different characters. It's distracting instead of sensitive. Her fiction prose is brazen. It sounds like her age. But that doesn't bother me, I mean, it's not like her family published this book trying to make her out to be anything that she wasn't yet. Given life experience, I'm sure her style would have matured and refined just as anyone else would. I just didn't enjoy how she portrayed the lifestyle of the college aged kid.

Her non-fiction, on the other hand I found very reflective. She asks questions that should be asked by more people. Why DO people end up where they do? Why DO graduates pick a field that is passionless at such an alarming rate? Are recruiters THAT powerful or manipulative? How often do YOU treat someone rudely or as less of a person because of the occupation they have (blue collar or manual work). She chooses to portray that through an exterminator. My dad worked on cars for a living as an auto-body repairman. I'm sure part of it is perception, but I know he felt like others didn't view him as intelligent as them because of their job vs. his. I guess I don't know because he never said anything, but it's something that I feel I picked up. My favorite piece was the one where she talks about growing up with Celiac Disease. She was an infant and she was not thriving. Her mother relentlessly looked for a solution and finally figured out what it was instead of letting her baby girl waste away while medical professionals tried to figure it out. Celiac is NOT gluten-intolerance. It is a VERY serious auto-immune allergic condition that can be life threatening. Even the tiniest bit of gluten can cause illness. But Marina, as she grew older, felt like her mom was going over the top. Her attitude was "it's just food, really" you know, not a big deal. She stopped asking for super special treatment (like a chef to use a freshly cleaned pan to cook her food to avoid cross contamination). She used to be hyper diligent, even calling a company to find out the source for carmel coloring, but had become lax. She describes coming across a medical piece that informed her that if a woman with Celiac is pregnant, any gluten she comes in contact with could potentially be a risk for fetal development. In that moment she promised herself that when she was ready to have a baby she would be SO diligent, she would check EVERYTHING she would do EVERYTHING to make sure her child would be safe and then it hit her in that instant. She KNEW what her mom felt. And I think that's really great that she was able to have that moment of clear understanding before she was ever in a position to experience it-especially since she never was able to experience it.

All in all, if I could give it 3.5 stars, that's what I'd rate it. A little better than 3, but not quite 4.

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