Comfort Reads: The Opposite of Loneliness

By Ellie Anderson-Ingham

From 8-12 October (THIS WEEK!) York St John University is holding its inaugural ‘Comfort Reads Week’, hosted by ILE as part of Libraries Week. This week of events seeks to celebrate and explore the power of reading for wellbeing. To get in the mood, we asked our students to tell us about their favourite comfort reads. In this post, Ellie Anderson-Ingham shares her love of Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness.

After a lot of consideration on what I would consider to be my Comfort Read, I forgot out of familiarity that The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan is a collection that I have taken everywhere and has been a guide to me since I purchased it in sixth form.

I first stumbled upon Keegan’s title essay “The Opposite of Loneliness” several years previous which was her last essay for the graduation issue of the Yale Daily News, which received more than 1.4 million hits and was truly unforgettable. Keegan’s words really made an impact on me, and how I try to think about things. For instance, instead of being apprehensive of the future, I will view it as holding unknown possibilities which are under my control. The ability for things to adapt and change is not always bad. Keegan’s essay allowed me to feel excitement about the unknown and the difficult, rather than a sense of sheer dread which I think is common nowadays. Keegan talked about how “we have so much time” which I interpreted as a comforting message despite living in a constantly busy society where it is easy to feel like there isn’t enough hours in a day to complete our routines; it means we don’t have to always plan and have things figured out. Sometimes, we can feel like the rules have already been made, and a fear of failure is present despite continuous efforts to work our hardest. Keegan wrote:

We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.

This is incredibly important as sometimes it is difficult to remember that we can create our own paths and aren’t following a pre-determined path. Although I’ve only spoken briefly on a couple of the points that impacted me, Keegan’s entire essay is incredibly uplifting, inspiring, and worth a read as I do not interpret it as being targeted towards a certain stage of life.

The Opposite of Loneliness captures the hope and uncertainty felt by generations past and present, and the possibilities that are available if only we believe. Keegan touches on the global struggle of discovering who we are, working towards we aspire to be and how we can use our talents to make the world better.

Keegan’s voice is like a guiding light to me. Keegan was a person who believed that “there can always be a better thing” in respect to her work even though her persona Is described by others who knew her be dedicated, passionate and hard-working. Whilst reading her work, it is comforting to be able to relate to Keegan’s worries and insecurities over her writing which she often expresses through her feelings of not writing well enough and her comparisons between herself and other writers. However, as an outsider it is easy to see that her witty prose is inspiring, fresh and truthful and don’t need tweaking. In my eyes, Keegan was an outstanding writer, and it is calming to notice that the people we consider as better than ourselves have insecurities too.

It is important to note that Keegan’s final piece of work is at the beginning of the collection and the audience are informed prior to Keegan’s work of her tragic death. There is something about reading an author, especially an author who is as young as twenty-two, who has died. Whenever I think of this, there is an indescribable sadness which weighs down on my heart even though it brings me happiness to read her works.

There are nine fiction pieces and nine non-fiction pieces in Keegan’s collection. Her fiction incredibly accomplished – her characters spring from the page and are easy to engage with. The non-fiction carries the same attributes, with insightful wording and observations. Keegan expresses her opinions and ideologies in both in a way which is not overconfident or forceful which is refreshing. It has been stated previously that readers may not be reading finalised pieces as it would have been wrong to perform edits to her work as it would be disrespectful due to her passing, but it is evident that Keegan’s work is accomplished.

Do you have a favourite Comfort Read you return to time and again? If so, and you’d like to share your love in a 600-800-word post, email one of our sub-editors: Ellie Anderson-Ingham, Adam Cummins or Charlotte Stevenson.