The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories - book cover
  • Publisher : Hogarth
  • Published : 01 Feb 2022
  • Pages : 208
  • ISBN-10 : 0593134095
  • ISBN-13 : 9780593134092
  • Language : English

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories

SHORTLISTED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE • "The lauded Argentine author of What We Lost in the Fire returns with enthralling stories conjured from literary sorcery" (O: The Oprah Magazine), in the tradition of Shirley Jackson and Jorge Luis Borges.

KIRKUS PRIZE FINALIST • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Oprah Daily, New York Public Library, Electric Lit, LitHub, Kirkus Reviews • "Mariana Enriquez's stories are smoky, carnal, and dazzling."-Lauren Groff, author of Matrix and Fates and Furies

Mariana Enriquez has been critically lauded for her unconventional and sociopolitical stories of the macabre. Populated by unruly teenagers, crooked witches, homeless ghosts, and hungry women, they walk the uneasy line between urban realism and horror. The stories in her new collection are as terrifying as they are socially conscious, and press into being the unspoken-fetish, illness, the female body, the darkness of human history-with bracing urgency. A woman is sexually obsessed with the human heart; a lost, rotting baby crawls out of a backyard and into a bedroom; a pair of teenage girls can't let go of their idol; an entire neighborhood is cursed to death when it fails to respond correctly to a moral dilemma.
Written against the backdrop of contemporary Argentina, and with a resounding tenderness toward those in pain, in fear, and in limbo, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is Mariana Enriquez at her most sophisticated, and most chilling.

Editorial Reviews

"Mariana Enriquez's fiction is haunted by the specter of late-twentieth-century Latin American history. . . . Yet because the fiction is so alive, the experience of being in her world is enjoyable."-Francine Prose, New York Review of Books

"Stories of spirits and disappearances collectively address the mystery of loss through narratives that are as gripping as they are chilling."-Chicago Review of Books

"Enriquez's gaze throughout the collection is unflinching, taking readers into dark and grotesque territory, yet it is her morality, a pervasive sense of right and wrong, that anchors each story and prevents the collection from veering into the lurid horror of tabloid tragedy."-Ploughshares

"Like her Chilean neighbor, the late Roberto Bolaño, Mariana Enriquez crafts fiction about the darkest recesses of the human heart that makes you feel light after reading it-uplifted by the precision and poetry of her characters' voices."-The A.V. Club

"Argentina's Samanta Schweblin, Chile's Paulina Flores, and Brazil's Carola Saavedra are a few who collapse the walls between the real and the imagined. Now, Argentine writer Mariana Enríquez joins their ranks with a ravishing new story collection . . . The Dangers of Smoking in Bed establishes Enríquez as a premier literary voice. Enríquez's extraordinary-and extraordinarily ominous-fiction holds up a mirror to our bewildering times, when borders between the everyday and the inexplicable blur, and converge."-O: The Oprah Magazine

"Horrors are relayed in a stylish deadpan. . . . Enriquez's plots deteriorate with satisfying celerity."-The New York Times Book Review

"[A] group of off-kilter tales enlivened by captivating unease. Every facet of her writing unsettles. . . . Enriquez, superbly translated by Megan McDowell, masterfully darts from disturbing to funny to repulsive without jarring the reader's momentum-or, rather, the disturbance is built into the momentum."-Tasteful Rude

"An atmospheric assemblage of cunning and cutting Argentine gothic tales . . . insidiously absorbing, like quicksand."-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Enriquez's wide-ranging imagination and ravenous appetite for morbid scenarios often reaches sublime heights. Adventurous readers will be rewarded in these trips into the macabre."-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Enriquez['s] . . . straightforward delivery and matter-of-fact tone that belie the wild, gasp-worthy action unfolding on the page."-Booklist

"Rotting little ghosts, heartbeat fetishes, curses and witches and meat: Each of these stories is a luscious, bewi...

Readers Top Reviews

Erica L TooleChris R
A macabre collection of twelve short stories set in modern-day Argentina that touches on underlying social issues. A cross between urban realism and horror the novel introduces characters that either cross moral and ethical issues and suffer the consequences or happen to be on the receiving end of someone else's wrath. I was invited to read Mariana Enriquez's The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, presented to me as a collection of "singularly unsettling stories". I will say this is a new to me author and I have not read her previous anthology (Things We Lost in the Fire). I tend to gravitate to the horror genre and typically don't shy away from graphic and/or unsettling content so this novel seemed to be perfect for me. I loved many of the stories but I will warn readers that this is not for the faint of heart. "Unsettling" is a very good description of some of the content and I was left feeling uncomfortable with some of the content. This is not a bad thing, as I feel the book is intended to make readers feel uncomfortable. This book does include content that may not be suitable for all readers, some more descriptive than others, including: sex/sexual fetish, drug use, cannibalism, pedophilia, and excretion/other bodily fluids just to name a few. I will say I enjoyed many of the stories despite their graphic nature and several of them stayed with (plausibly haunted) me long after I was finished with the novel. Here is quick synopsis, as I understood it, of the stories in this collection without giving too much away. If you want to be surprised about the stories stop reading here... Angelita Unearthed- A young woman must help an unsettled spirit that reveals itself as a rotting baby. Our Lady of the Quarry- A teenage girl’s desire results in her calling on something unholy The Cart- A neighborhood's cruel treatment of a vagrant leads to a curse The Well- A story of a witch, a well, and extreme paranoia Rambla Triste- A woman visiting her friend in the city is plagued by a stench...the smell of revenge The Lookout Tower- A ghost befriends a girl in hopes of being free Where Are You, Dear Heart? - A woman who is sexually obsessed with the human heart Meat- A musical idol and two teen fans that can't let him go No Birthdays or Baptisms- Two friends photo/film venture leads to an unexpected outcome after a job for a special client Kids Who Come Back- Two friend's encounter childhood runaways and abductees who "return" The Dangers of Smoking in Bed- A woman's unusual curiosity with fire Back When We Talked to the Dead- Friends play with a Ouija board and discover something sinister.
A girl accidentally unearths the bones of a dead relative and is haunted by the encounter throughout her life. Three young women plot to destroy an older friend in a jealous fit using supernatural forces. The putrid scent of abused and abandoned children overwhelms the residents who live in that part of the city. A girl with a fetish for the workings of the human heart takes her obsession to dangerous levels. Two young fans of a rock star who has killed himself in a gruesome manner go to extreme lengths to remain close to him. A woman who keeps public records on disappeared children is deeply affected when one of the missing girls suddenly reappears. Five young women try to contact the dead spirits of friends and relatives who have been “disappeared” by the government and meet with chilling results. Those are some of the topics that Argentine writer and journalist Mariana Enriquez develops in The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, a collection of twelve short stories that explore supernatural themes with a social conscience. Similar to the author’s previously translated collection Things We Lost in the Fire, this volume is set mostly in the impoverished barrios of Buenos Aires and told from the perspective of a series of sad, lonely, or disturbed female protagonists. The comparison between the two collections is interesting because while the English language version of Dangers comes out four years after the first book, it was originally written several years earlier. That distinction is important because this volume seemed, on the whole, to be the more embryonic and less assured of the two. To be sure, Enriquez is a very talented storyteller as well as someone who is deeply committed to exploring the grittier side of life with fantastical and magical realism elements. The best stories in The Dangers of Smoking in Bed—and, for me, those included ‘Our Lady of the Quarry’, ‘Rambla Triste’, ‘Kids Who Come Back’ (which is also by far the longest), and ‘Back When We Talked to the Dead’—were the ones in which the history of political strife in her native Argentina is always just beneath the surface (even though ‘Rambla Triste’ is actually set in Barcelona). Conversely, some of the other tales, including the title story, were far sketchier and more easily forgotten. Nevertheless, this is a book that I can easily recommend to fans of the author, although those new to her work might want to start with Things We Lost in the Fire instead.
MikeLinda Lyles
Many of these stories are quite vivid and rich in detail. However I do feel like something was lost in translation or I don’t know enough about Argentina or latam culture. The stories ended so abruptly with only a couple of satisfying endings.
Ellen Perduyn
The stories float along story lines that are so enticing that you can’t stop reading. I don’t read entire books of short stories usually, but this one ended too soon. I wanted more
The author is a amalgamation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Edgar Allen Poe. Beautiful writing not entirely obscured by the nature of the stories. Although not for everyone I highly recommend this short story collection. It's wonderful to be challenged when reading. These stories will not be showing up on the Hallmark Channel anytime soon.

Short Excerpt Teaser

Chapter 1

Angelita Unearthed

My grandma didn't like the rain, and before the first drops fell, when the sky grew dark, she would go out to the backyard with bottles and bury them halfway, with the whole neck underground; she believed those bottles would keep the rain away. I followed her around asking, "Grandma why don't you like the rain why don't you like it?" No reply-Grandma dodged my questions, shovel in hand, wrinkling her nose to sniff the humidity in the air. If it did eventually rain, whether it was a drizzle or a thunderstorm, she shut the doors and windows and turned up the volume on the TV to drown out the sound of wind and the raindrops on the zinc roof of the house. And if the downpour coincided with her favorite show, Combat!, there wasn't a soul who could get a word out of her, because she was hopelessly in love with Vic Morrow.

I just loved the rain, because it softened the dry earth and let me indulge in my obsession with digging. And boy, did I dig! I used the same shovel as Grandma, a very small one, like a child's beach toy only made of metal and wood instead of plastic. The plot at the far end of the yard held little pieces of green glass with edges so worn they no longer cut you, and smooth stones that seemed like round pebbles or small beach rocks-what were those things doing out behind my house? Someone must have buried them there. Once, I found an oval-shaped stone the size and color of a cockroach without legs or antennae. On one side it was smooth, and on the other side some notches formed the clear features of a smiling face. I showed it to my dad, thrilled because I thought I'd found myself an ancient artifact, but he told me it was just a coincidence that the marks formed a face. My dad never got excited about anything. I also found some black dice with nearly invisible white dots. I found shards of apple-green and turquoise frosted glass, and Grandma remembered they'd once been part of an old door. I also used to play with worms, cutting them up into tiny pieces. It wasn't that I enjoyed watching the mutilated bodies writhe around before going on their way. I thought that if I really cut up the worm, sliced it like an onion, ring by ring, it wouldn't be able to regenerate. I never did like creepy-crawlies.

I found the bones after a rainstorm that turned the back patch of earth into a mud puddle. I put them into a bucket I used for carrying my treasures to the spigot on the patio, where I washed them. I showed them to Dad. He said they were chicken bones, or maybe even beef bones, or else they were from some dead pet someone must have buried a long time ago. Dogs or cats. He circled back around to the chicken story because before, when he was little, my grandma used to have a coop back there.

It seemed like a plausible explanation until Grandma found out about the little bones. She started to pull out her hair and shout, "Angelita! Angelita!" But the racket didn't last long under Dad's glare: he put up with Grandma's "superstitions" (as he called them) only as long as she didn't go overboard. She knew that disapproving look of his, and she forced herself to calm down. She asked me for the bones and I gave them to her. Then she sent me off to bed. That made me a little mad, because I couldn't figure out what I'd done to deserve that punishment.

But later that same night, she called me in and told me everything. It was sibling number ten or eleven, Grandma wasn't too sure-back then they didn't pay so much attention to kids. The baby, a girl, had died a few months after she was born, suffering fever and diarrhea. Since she was an angelita-an innocent baby, a little angel, dead before she could sin-they'd wrapped her in a pink cloth and propped her up on a cushion atop a flower-bedecked table. They made little cardboard wings for her so she could fly more quickly up to heaven, but they didn't fill her mouth with red flower petals because her mother, my great-grandmother, couldn't stand it, she thought it looked like blood. The dancing and singing lasted all night, and they even had to kick out a drunk uncle and revive my great-grandmother, who fainted from the heat and the crying. There was an indigenous mourner who sang Trisagion hymns, and all she charged was a few empanadas.

"Grandma, did all this happen here?"

"No, it was in Salavina, in Santiago. Goodness, was it hot there!"

"But these aren't the baby's bones, if she died there."

"Yes, they are. I brought them with us when we moved. I didn't want to just leave her, because she cried every night, poor thing. And if she cried when we were close by, just imagine how she'd cry if she was all alone, abandoned! So I brought her. She was nothing but little bones by then, and I put her in a bag and buried ...