First Published: January 12, 2021
Genres: Horror, Short Stories
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.
I fell in love with Mariana Enriquez’s stories after reading Things We Lost in the Fire and I was so hungry to read more of her work. When I saw The Dangers of Smoking in Bed was finally being translated to English I was overjoyed and so excited to dive back into Enriquez’s world of macabre characters and supernatural frights. I didn’t think it was possible, but I ended up loving this new collection so much more than the first.
The stories in The Dangers of Smoking in Bed are bold, sexy, and push boundaries at every turn. The stories portrayed people or places that seemed to be haunted by death and self-destruction. Sexual deviancy is found everywhere with some spine-chilling narratives that unabashedly show the darkest depths of human desire. Our Lady of the Quarry and Meat present terrifyingly obsessive teenage girls whose jealousy and dark hearts wreck havoc.
My favorite story of the collection, which also happened to be the longest, was Kids Who Come Back. The story focuses on missing children, the street urchins, and the runaways. This is a story that could have easily continued on to a full-length novel, it is paced wonderfully and had an air of mystery that became ominous the deeper into the story that I got. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is a standout collection in the horror genre from a talented writer that I’ll be thinking about all year.
“I had to contain that desire, that wish to sate myself, to open him up, play with his organs like hidden trophies.”
Trigger Warning: Sexually Explicit Content, Cannibalism, Violence