Title: The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
Author: Mariana Enríquez
Translator: Megan McDowell
Date: 2021 (2009)
Genre: Horror / Short stories
Summary: Welcome to Buenos Aires, a city thrumming with murderous intentions and morbid desires, where missing children come back from the dead and unearthed bones carry terrible curses. These brilliant, unsettling tales of revenge, witchcraft, fetishes, disappearances and urban madness spill over with women and girls whose dark inclinations will lead them over the edge.
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is a collection of short macabre stories by Argentine writer Mariana Enríquez. The collection explores themes of loss, pain, fear, and liminality through the supernatural. I’ve never read Enríquez’s work before so I had no expectations going into this.
This collection was a mixed bag for me! I found some stories gripping and terrifying but others were dull or disgusting.
The beginning of the collection packed a punch, for me, but I did find my interest waning towards the end of the book. I think I would have benefited from reading a couple of stories, or perhaps even one story, per day rather than consuming the book in two sittings. As for specific stories, I rather liked Angelita Unearthed, The Well, and Rambla Triste. The Cart seemed completely out of place and I thoroughly disliked it.
I did enjoy Enríquez’s writing, for the most part, and I thought the stories worked best when she focused on creating suspense and terror. Some of the stories are wonderfully chilling as Enríquez invites us into the unknown and draws upon elements of the supernatural. I loved these stories in particular because they toy with the conventions of horror and terror in a delightful way. They’re allegorical, weird, and unflinchingly open. Some of the other stories are much more conventional as they lean into the unambiguous atrocities of horror and these were (mostly) good too. Some relied a bit too much on shock-value for my taste but others were well done. However, I must admit that I did skip some stories because they were too revolting for me. I started all of them but couldn’t finish them. I’m not a big fan of disgusting books, I much prefer the subtle touch of terror, and I found some of the stories difficult to read.
I’ll acknowledge that some things may have been lost in translation but I don’t know for certain because I can’t read the original and, unfortunately, I’m judging Enríquez’s work on this specific translation.
On a final note, I’d really recommend checking out the warnings over on The StoryGraph for this one because there may be some specific things that trigger people. I’m pretty open, in regards to both language and themes, unless things are gratuitous (and I did skip some stories) but we all have different limits and it’s important to respect your own.
Would I recommend this book? I wish I could only recommend certain stories as I’m not sure I enjoyed the collection as a whole but I will recommend it to fans of horror. Just be aware that the stories vary in themes, style, and quality and remember that some of the stories may not appeal to you.
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