This weekend, part of the AIESEC team is hosting an Arts and Environment Festival they’ve been planning for a month. There are a few different programs here: the one I do, which works with ninos and abuelitos throughout the day; WeSpeak, which teaches English classes directly to students at the university (I’d do that one if I could do it again); and the Arts and Environment Festival, which organizes and hosts a festival.
As part of the festival, every group is doing a project with their individual foundations to showcase arts and environment.
Our group is making a windchime out of plastic bottles because the only recycled material we all had was empty water bottles.
Yesterday they painted the bottles white, and today they’re painting flowers, trees, and other items on them, after which we’ll somehow figure out how to suspend them into a DIY windchime. (After the festival we’ll return it to them so they can have it in their garden).
Afterwards we went to Spanish lessons where I befriended a dog (he followed me into the classroom and sat down beside me while I learned, but his brethren strays barked and he left without a word), and taught the others the real meaning of “bless your heart.”
I also finished The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. The thing is- and I tread dangerous water when I say so- I wouldn’t recommend this book. The story is tragic- Marina was a 22 year old Yale graduate who died in a car accident, and this book is an amalgamation of her works throughout college. It includes some poetry, a few short stories, and a few essays, the most famous being the one she wrote that went viral, The Opposite of Loneliness. She’s lauded as being a rising star (undoubtedly- she had been published and was headed for a career at The New Yorker), and her literature is praised for its depth and profundity.
Except that, tragedy and sob-story aside, it’s not all that phenomenal. The writing and grasp of language is good, but not markedly different from any other talented writer I know (and I happen to know many). Because there are so many people who lack an intricate knowledge (and courage) of manipulating the English language today, it makes someone who can do so seem remarkable- when in reality, that’s just what should be expected.
The best way I can describe it is this: you know how, when you watch a movie with bad acting, you watch it and in your mind you’re like, that’s so-and-so pretending to be the character? It’s this feeling that you see the actor aspiring to the role, but it isn’t convincing enough for you to just see the character and no one else? And when you see a movie with good acting, you watch it and in your mind it’s just the character, not an actor, because the actor is the character? For example. In Marie Antoinette, Kristen Dunst was pretending to be Marie. In The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger was the Joker.
That’s what Keegan’s writing is like. It’s like she’s an actor pretending to be something greater, whereas other authors just are.
If she had lived longer, she would no doubt have achieved the latter reality, but unfortunately time decreed that she wouldn’t be given the opportunity to cultivate that kind of talent.
Her thoughts aren’t profound, and her descriptions don’t penetrate any deeper than anybody else I’ve read of the same age and ability. I don’t mean to disrespect Marina, by any means- you honor her tragedy, not defile it- but I think she’d want, from what I’ve gathered of her personality through this collection, at least one person who bought the book to offer real constructive criticism of it. And that’s not a cheap shot at Marina, by any means. It’s simply a criticism of her work, which can be done (hopefully, though few people dare) without defiling her or the person and artist that she was.
If someone published my personal writings, that’s what I would want.
She had potential, and she was only 22. But if you’re looking to buy a book that inspires, that’s profound, or that offers any advice that you can’t gain elsewhere, don’t purchase it. The Opposite of Loneliness essay is available here for free. If you want a collection of short stories that is profound, is penetrating, and you can’t get anywhere else, try The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.