To Read Books Written by the Deceased

Recently I’ve somehow ended up reading books written by people that are dead.  Normally I don’t pay much attention to if the author is dead or alive, but after receiving The Opposite of Loneliness in my Easter basket, I’ve started to notice if the author is still alive.  

The Opposite of Loneliness is a collection of essays written by Marina Keegan, a Yale graduate who was killed in a car accident three days after her graduation.  I started reading her book the day that I got it and fell in love with it.  The only thing that kept me from finishing the book that night was knowing that there would never be anything else written by Marina Keegan.  This book was the only piece of writing that I would be able to read by her.  

It got me thinking: Should we read books written by people who are dead differently than those whose authors are alive? Should I have stopped reading The Opposite of Loneliness simply because I wanted to savor the only writings that I would read from her? Or should I have just read the whole book in one sitting? 

How should we read books written by those who are dead?

As I thought about this, I realized that the majority of books that I’ve read have been written by people who are buried.  People who won’t write ever again.  Shakespeare, Ken Kesey, and George Orwell are just a few awesome authors who are no longer with us. I’ve read books by those three men without even thinking of if they were dead or not.  Not thinking that there would be no new writing from them. I simply read their books without a second thought. 

Why were Marina Keegan’s essays different? Why did I freeze before I continued reading? 

I have come to the conclusion that I stopped because she was so young.  There should have been more writings from her.  This should not have been her only published work. She was not expected to die.  

That was why I couldn’t keep reading.  I couldn’t keep reading because with every page turn, I was confronted by the shortness and harness of life.  Every page turn, I stood face to face with some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read, and it was written by someone who shouldn’t be dead. 

I couldn’t keep reading because that could be me.  That could be any of us.  

We can all be forced to stop writing, stop dancing, stop singing, stop creating at any moment.  

And as scary as that is, it’s also a challenge.  

What do we make with our time we have to create? 

“And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short” -Marina Keegan 


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