Whenever a review claims that a writer/poet/etc. is the “voice of our generation”, it’s already setting up that body of work to fail. How can one person’s voice embody the perspective and clarity of thousands or millions of people? It’s unfair to that particular writer and it’s unfair to the reader. These high expectations are now in place and if that writer doesn’t make room for my particular view, I wonder why that label was placed. This is what happened when I finished reading The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan.
It must be said that it has been about six months since I read this particular book. I enjoyed one or two short stories, then her essay that the title comes from was also inspiring. Many reviews and comments talked about how this gifted writer was taken from the world too soon by a car accident. I understand the tragedy. I can’t imagine graduating college only to be pulled from this universe. There is so much I want to accomplish and it reminds me how fucking short life is. But please don’t label her privileged voice as the voice of my generation!
She had stories and I bet she would have been an awesome person to have a conversation with, but what is up with the obsession of glorifying her because she died so young? There are so many people that have died young who didn’t have a chance to get their stories published or have their goal come true posthumously. It bothered me and yes after all these months, it still gets to me.
Random, I know but with all the changes I have gone in these past six months–her book influenced me in a big way. Her collection, which was compiled by her family, was not what she wanted to be sent out into the world. When you think about it, it’s what her family chose. They decided what went into this book. They read through her personal notes and essays… it made me queasy to imagine my loved ones going through my mounds of thoughts, some mean, some nonsensical, some not worthy of remembrance!
Marina inspired me to filter myself. Editing at its most base level. I go through my journals and notebooks every other week. I don’t mind deleting essays from my phone or laptop. I don’t want to be remembered for what could have been or for what other people chose. I want to choose what I send out into the world.