The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories (2009)
Words by Caitlin Colapietro
♦︎
✧​

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories (2009)

♦︎
imperialistsarestillalive-940x460.jpeg
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories is a modern, Argentinian take on the precedent set by Shirley Jackson’s Dark Tales. Both of these unsettling collections of short stories focus on women, however, author Mariana Enriquez takes her tales to another, more disturbing and grotesque level through subverting expectations of femininity.
♦︎


I always imagined writing short stories to be more challenging than writing a novel or series because the author has less time to build worlds, describe characters, and ultimately make the reader invest in the story. Enriquez succeeds at this daunting task by making the reader wish the story was more than just a short story. I was left wanting a whole novel around some of the psychological horrors that she was able to craft in so few words. Also, I appreciated her set up of twists and turns. Often in darker short stories, the really messed up bit doesn’t quite hit until the very end. Enriquez doesn’t always take this approach and isn’t afraid to deliver raw horror from the get-go, making her stories satisfyingly sour.


The women that Enriquez writes tidder on the boundary of finished and unfinished. She writes female characters that are built just enough to tell the short story, but not so much so that they become heavy for the reader. She employs traditionally feminine topics that are then turned on their heads in a way that is shockingly unforgettable. In the first story, Angeltia Unearthed, we come to find our main character trying to make a ghost baby feel comfortable during a bus ride. However, earlier in that same story she attempted to strangle said 3-month-old zombified corpse to no avail. And in Meat, the reader is met with a pair of die-hard teenage girls overanalyzing their favourite late musician’s lyrics. In their search for meaning, they determine that consuming his flesh is the only way to truly fulfill his final wishes. So they do just that. They break into the cemetery after dark to feast. These topics like infants and the teenage idolization of musicians are synonymous with women and girlhood. Enriquez’s stories have these themes interwoven and often come from a place that on a surface level appears to be well intentioned before things take a darker turn.


Enriquez’s unique portrayal of women using the juxtaposition between good and evil and life and death is disturbing in all the right ways. It goes without saying that these psychological thrillers come with a laundry list of trigger warnings. I found myself sometimes put off by the use of derogatory language such as transvestite and tranny. However, since these stories were published in 2009 and the brash immaturity of some of the characters, I can understand the translator's choice, or perhaps ignorance, to use certain words. If you are looking for a raw, fervent take on short stories, then this is the book for you.