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The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
Cover of The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
Stories
“The beautiful, horrible world of Mariana Enriquez, as glimpsed in The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, with its disturbed adolescents, ghosts, decaying ghouls, the sad and angry homeless of modern Argentina, is the most exciting discovery I’ve made in fiction for some time.”—Kazuo Ishiguro, The Guardian

SHORTLISTED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE • NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • FINALIST: Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Ray Bradbury Prize, Kirkus Prize • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Oprah Daily, New York Public Library, Electric Lit, LitHub, Kirkus Reviews

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.
“The beautiful, horrible world of Mariana Enriquez, as glimpsed in The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, with its disturbed adolescents, ghosts, decaying ghouls, the sad and angry homeless of modern Argentina, is the most exciting discovery I’ve made in fiction for some time.”—Kazuo Ishiguro, The Guardian

SHORTLISTED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE • NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • FINALIST: Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Ray Bradbury Prize, Kirkus Prize • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Oprah Daily, New York Public Library, Electric Lit, LitHub, Kirkus Reviews

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.
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  • From the cover 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...
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Rebecca Soler's superb narration makes this collection of horror stories irresistible. She skillfully commands accents and tone with such finesse that it seems like there are multiple narrators. These socially conscious stories are unconventionally macabre--at times achingly, gruesomely, yet utterly fascinating. Set in modern-day Argentina, these eclectic works feature zombie babies, cannibalistic rock fans, a cursed town, distressed ghosts, and a woman who is obsessed with the sound of heartbeats. The characters in these tales are in agitated situations with outcomes that will enthrall listeners. Soler successfully pivots her narration to match the style of each story. Listeners will be enraptured yet horrified and unable to stop listening to these stories, which are not for the faint of heart. A.M. � AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 26, 2020
    The alleys and slums of Buenos Aires supply the backdrop to Enriquez’s harrowing and utterly original collection (after Things We Lost in the Fire), which illuminates the pitch-dark netherworld between urban squalor and madness. In the nightmarish opener, “Angelita Unearthed,” the bones of a rotting child reanimate after being dug up; likewise, in “Back When We Talked to the Dead,” the dead foretell dread using a Ouija board. Themes of obsession and the arcane come to light in “Our Lady of the Quarry,” where a band of teenage girls turn to witchcraft to snare the object of their desires; “Meat,” which follows two grave-robbing fans of a recently deceased rock star; and “Where Are You, Dear Heart?”, in which a self-described “heartbeat fetishist” gets off by holding a stethoscope to a diseased man’s chest. Things grow darker still in “Rambla Triste,” as the victims of a pedophile ring are resurrected in Barcelona as “incarnations of the city’s madness,” and in “Kids Who Come Back,” the book’s epic and visceral centerpiece, in which the missing, damned, and destitute begin returning home. (Which isn’t to discount the grotesque title story or the exorcism at the heart of “The Well.”) Finally, there are the pair of film fanatics who undertake made-to-order pornography only to quickly get in over their heads in “No Birthdays or Baptisms.” 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—and hopefully they’ll be able to find their way back.

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