Alright guys, one of the first posts I remember interacting with people in person the most about after having shared it here, was when I first read The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. I’m going to share that originally post again, (I’ll just include it below.) But I also want to write a little about what made me want to share it. A few weekends ago, the Southern Festival of Books was held in Downtown Nashville at the Nashville Public Library and the War Memorial Auditorium. Some of my favorite authors were there, and some I have yet to read their books but I instantly wanted to after hearing their panels. The writing processes, the leaps of faith, the points of inspiration, or the internal struggles people are managing that all come through in their stories, completely fascinate me.
Yesterday, I read a quote from Tom Hanks. “God gave all of us burdens, and some of us typewriters.” Have you read more true words? He has a point. (Partially talking to myself here because there are things I’ve been neglecting to write, and the words are screaming to get out. I believe when that happens, we owe it to ourselves to write those stories, those words, even if another pair of eyes never sees them.)
Anyway, years ago I read Marina Keegan’s words for the first time, and they struck a chord so deep in me, that I feel like some of the passages settled inside and have remained there. I often think of her words. I’ll be in the midst of a great moment with friends, (the kind when you realize how wonderful it is, while it’s happening) and I’ll think back to her Opposite of Loneliness essay. There are other occasions this happens too, long car rides, or late night adventures that make it feel as if youth will never fade. Maybe it’s weird? But I don’t think so. I think it’s just the work resonating with a reader, and don’t you secretly wish that the words will resonate with someone when you write them?
So, I was attending this book festival with one of my most favorite girl friends in all the land. We met the weekend before college started, when we were both eighteen and knew immediately we were kindred spirits. Of course, in the beginning we bonded over our shortness, and Gilmore Girls and One Tree Hill love, the thrill of making pina coladas in a blender, or creating ridiculous matching costumes for date functions, and how the bookshelves in our dorm rooms housed some of the same wonderful YA authors. But later on of course that friendship transcended into so much more. Good times, and not the best of times, but all things that strengthened our bond in the end. (I write all of that because Keegan’s work made me think a lot about the relationships we have in our lives, and what becomes of them.) So after attending a few author panels we went outside where there was an array of vendors – book sellers, local authors, food trucks, etc.
I paused in one tent, and I felt myself take in a sharp breath when my eyes crossed over The Opposite of Loneliness. Originally I’d checked it out from the library, and I don’t know why I didn’t own it yet. Except because obviously I was meant to find it that day. I immediately started gushing about it to my friend. I need to add because I just love the friendliness of people, and anyone who’s willing to talk to a stranger about books (because when we’re talking about books are we really strangers?) The guy next to us overheard me rambling about Big Little Lies and asked if he should get it for his girlfriend? Of course he should because it’s such a fun read and it doesn’t matter if she watched the show because reading their characters from the page is a great thing!
Anyway, back to my story….I knew I couldn’t leave without it, (and a copy of a biography on Harper Lee called I Am Scout, that I’m so excited to read.) When I went to pay for it, the man asked me if I’d heard of The Opposite of Loneliness before, or what struck my interest in it? I explained how I’d read it a few years earlier, and her words had stayed with me ever since. We locked eyes in that moment, (and not in a weird way, but in the way, where you and this person you’d never talked to five seconds earlier, had a complete understanding transpire in an instant.) He told me he felt the same way, and that’s why he knew he had to carry it in his selection. He went on to say, how unfortunate it was that she died in a car accident and we aren’t able to see what more she would have written, what she would’ve become. I swear in that moment, I had to hold back my tears in the middle of Church street. We agreed we’re lucky to have the words from her that we do. I know, it’s such a small moment but to me it meant so much all at once. I mean, it’s my favorite thing on the planet to do…encounter people you share a niche interest with, and even for a moment in time can bond over. Our conversation spread from there, as he asked what brought me to Nashville, and what area of town I was living in. He then went on to tell me about a Motown Monday music night at a spot near me, and a funk night on the weekends, and some other gems I wasn’t totally aware of yet. It was just an all in all great interaction and I felt like it deserved to be written down.
Now, if I can connect with a stranger on a Saturday over how incredible The Opposite of Loneliness is, and what a shame it is that Marina Keegan’s life ended so soon…then if you haven’t read it yet, isn’t that reason enough?