I discovered this book when searching for anything new by one of my favourite essayists, Anne Fadiman. Her latest, it turns out, is the introduction to this volume of stories and essays by her former student, Marina Keegan. Keegan was just 22 when, shortly after graduating from Yale, she died in a car accident. The tragic loss of a life with such literary and journalistic potential, not to mention seemingly unfailing optimism, brings poignancy to each of these pieces.
She was truly talented. Her writing manages to be both fluid and crisp, combining a lyrical narrative touch with journalistic directness that makes every story and essay memorable. Reading through the stories, one can see her developing and evolving as a writer, expanding her vocabulary and flexing sentence structure in brilliant ways. Not that everything is great – some of the essays are a bit too self-focused to be interesting, and include repetitive words and phrases that a more mature writer would have restructured.
I found the short stories to be better than the essays (although the one about her first car is great, reminding me of my own first car). She manages to write fictional woman, especially older women, with remarkable prescience for someone so young, while at the same time capturing the joys and angsts and fun of youth. Clearly from these, her potential as a writer was very high.
8. A book by a female author.
19. A book you can finish in a day.
24. A book written by someone younger than you (even now, Marina would be 27)
26. A book by an author I’ve never read
*I’ve determined that I cannot meet my overall list goal without dropping one of the “books I’ve already read” from the list, so sadly A Prayer for Owen Meany will no longer count in my list for the year.