Family, friends and members of the Yale community celebrated the launch of Marina Keegan’s ’12 posthumous short story and essay collection “The Opposite of Loneliness” at an event at the Yale Bookstore on Wednesday.
Keegan, a writer, actress and activist, died in a car accident five days after graduating from Yale in 2012. The essay from which the book takes its title — was written for the 2012 commencement issue of the News and garnered over 1.4 million views after her death. Keegan wrote all but three of the collection’s 17 essays and stories for her classes at Yale, campus publications and the English Major Writing Concentration.
“The launch couldn’t be anywhere but Yale,” said English professor Anne Fadiman, who wrote the introduction to Keegan’s book. “Marina tore through Yale like a comet, she loved this place, so we had to have the book launch here — we imagined bringing Marina back to Yale.”
Fadiman, writer Jack Hitt, Keegan’s junior year roommate Chloe Sarbib ’12, and Keegan’s close friend Mark Sonnenblick ’12 — who worked with Keegan on the musical “Independents” — read excerpts from Keegan’s essays and stories to a crowded audience of roughly 80 people. Beth McNamara, Marina’s high school English teacher, and Keegan’s parents Kevin and Tracy Keegan were also present. The Keegan family hosted a reception at Mory’s following the talk.
Sarbib read from Keegan’s short story “The Ingenue,” while Hitt read an excerpt from “Sclerotherapy,” a story about regret over a lifetime. Fadiman read “Song for the Special,” an essay about being an individual and making a difference in the world.
“‘Someday before I die, I think I’ll find a microphone and climb to the top of a radio tower … Hello, I’ll say to outer space, this is my card,’” Fadiman read.
Sonnenblick read the book’s eponymous essay for the closing reading, sharing Keegan’s powerful message of hope, community and inspiration with the audience.
Following the readings, Keegan’s family and friends welcomed questions from the audience and shared personal anecdotes. Keegan’s mother Tracy Keegan described her daughter’s childhood, her love for books, and her mindfulness and curiosity, recalling that her daughter had said, “My imagination scares me.”
In response to a question from the audience about Keegan’s friends and family reading her writing after her death, Tracy Keegan described the experience reading through her journals and files on her hard-drive as “bittersweet and beautiful.” Tracy Keegan said her daughter set goals for herself in her journals, such as striving for empathy, humility and making a difference in the world.
“I could hear her talking to me in words I’ve never heard her say,” she said.
At the request of an audience member, Sarbib recounted the story of Keegan’s hilarious but failed plans for a talent show performance during a summer program at the Royal Academy of Drama in London. According to Sarbib, Keegan planned to solve a Rubik’s cube to a soundtrack, not realizing she had to audition in front of a panel of distinguished judges.
McNamara, Fadiman and other readers repeated that Keegan’s writing reflects her unique voice. For both readers and audience members, Keegan’s book represents a means of bringing Keegan back to life.
“Getting to read more of Marina’s writing and hear it be read is just like getting to hear her voice again,” said Riley Scripps Ford ’11, a close friend of Keegan’s who participated in the Writing Concentration with her.
Keegan — commended as a writer who exhibited promise and talent — was praised for her style and prose by many of the event’s attendees.
Matthew Mattia ’17 said he admires her and highly anticipated the book, having previously searched through the News’ archives and other sources for her writing.
“She has an ease with very emotional but not trite language,” he said.
Keegan died in Massachusetts on May 26, 2012, at the age of 22.