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The Vengeful and the Depraved in ‘The Dangers of Smoking in Bed’

And how it made me face my own depravity

'The Dangers of Smoking in Bed', by Mariana Enriquez
‘The Dangers of Smoking in Bed’, by Mariana Enriquez

(THE VENGEFUL AND THE DEPRAVED IN ‘THE DANGERS OF SMOKING IN BED’ first published on Medium publication Coffee Time Reviews. You can read the full review here)

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed

Let me begin by sharing the ways in which I tried to describe the feelings that came to my mind, as I read this collection of short stories. There were a lot of horrified oh-my-gods, and quite a few disgusted oh-my-gods; I thought they were compelling, some scary, some sobering, some that made me very very uncomfortable, and some that just confused me. But was it a powerhouse? Hell yes.

Argentine author Mariana Enriquez, who has been compared to Shirley Jackson and Jorge Luis Borge, brings to us a compelling collection of stories that suck you in and yet, at the same time, really repel you. Each of these stories is unconventional and is a horror-take on some issues, which, at the core, are often socio-political in nature. Perhaps ‘macabre’ is the right word to use for her works.

My Thoughts and Why You Need to Read It ASAP

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed was truly a book unlike any other. At first glance at the synopsis, one might think that the stories are gross and disgusting and that would be reason enough to rate it really low. But on the contrary, I have quite possibly never read anything like this. I loved it, yes, with all its weirdness, its fetishes, and all its horror. I read it and I loved it and I rated it 5 stars.

We both knew what the ending might be, and we didn’t care.

I went in knowing that I might have to face the dark at night. And that was indeed saying a lot because I am generally not a scaredy-cat. I can watch a ghost/demon/horror movie at 3 am when it’s pitch black and fear can come in the shape of a headless man standing in the corner of your room when it is just your jacket hung up on the hook. And so, to say that I was spooked might not be an understatement.

One of my top 5 favorite stories in this collection has to be Our Lady of the Quarry. It’s got the usual teenage drama, jealousy, and parties and boys. But it also has a gruesome revenge plot that I was taken aback by. But that is not all. I faced my own depravity when I felt my righteous anger at the two characters who, I ended up believing deserved what came for them. It was an unsettling end but what was more unsettling was my own reaction to it and how my dark side came out so easily. Perhaps, our dark sides are ultimately not that deeply embedded in us, and are just lurking around under the skin?

Perhaps, our dark sides are ultimately not that deeply embedded in us, and are just lurking around under the skin?

What was it about this author’s power that pulled me in? That made me understand my boundaries more and made my depravities and my fetishes more recognizable? What made me deny my denial of this knowledge? Should I now create an altar and worship this goddess writer? Or would that make me weird enough to be clubbed together with these characters in the stories?

What was it about this writing, these stories, and the characters’ unreliability that made this such a mind-blowing read for me? Was it because I was forced to face the basic and the basest of human desires and capabilities? Was it because I was forced to face my own humanity (or its lack thereof)?

The Unavoidable Discourse and Disappointments

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed has some unavoidable socio-political and cultural themes that are underlying the horror and the grime but may perhaps be the core of it all. From stories of people being ‘taken away’, to people being ‘trapped’, it is full of such subtle jabs and hints of a cultural and political makeup of a people, of a country.

There were also a couple of stories that seemed a bit mild to me and therefore not very memorable. But that is to say, perhaps I have already been influenced, corrupted, and debauched enough to find them mild. It certainly is a dark ride, one that makes you question your own morality, your own humanity. Proceed with caution!

Final Thoughts

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is not an easy read. It is certainly not a comforting read either. But if you are one among those who revel in the macabre and the horror and the freakishness, this might be for you. If you want to expand your senses and dabble with that which is outside your box and makes you uncomfortable, this is for you. Go for it.

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Reading Rush 2020 Wrap-up

Hey guys! I hope you had a wonderful week. I for one, was transported into an entirely different world. Or rather, worlds. The last week (July 20 to 26) I participated in the Reading Rush Readathon and had the time of my life!

Reading Rush Wrap-up
Reading Rush Wrap-up

What is the Reading Rush?

The Reading Rush is basically a readathon and the time when we drop everything else and read. There were a few prompts and one could either opt to choose one book for each or stack up.

Being me, I was of course super ambitious, and although I could not read every book I wanted to, it did go great and I read 6 books! So without further ado, let me tell you all about the different prompts and the books I read.

You can also check out the TBR video I made where I go over all the books and the synopses.

You can also check out the VLOG I uploaded on Youtube today!

Prompt 1: Read a book that is the same colour as your birthstone

Being an August baby, my birthstone is Peridot, which is lime green in colour. So I decided to pick up SEA PRAYER by Khaled Hosseini.

It was a sad and intense read. It was so poignant; despite the short length, it was full of immense longing and pain and nostalgia. I was very much moved. I had previously read A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS, and this book with Hosseini’s impeccably strong and conducive writing just got to me. The illustrations were superb as well! It was a solid 4star read for me.

Prompt 2: Read a book that starts with ‘The’

For this prompt, I picked up THE ROANOKE GIRLS by Amy Engel.

This was a tale very twisted. It was mysterious and yet as I read it, I unconsciously knew the secret that haunts the Roanoke Girls. And I know this because when this stunning secret is revealed, I was not really shocked. Rather it was a confirmation of what I had already known all along. It is full of the hidden and repressed longings of the girls [due to the dominant and yet cunningly manipulative and seductive patriarchy that grants the man supreme hold over them all. This hold is not forceful but rather groomed into them since their birth. It is a twisted tale of love and oh, what love.
It is brilliantly executed and well placed. I loved it and definitely recommend it to all. It was a 5star read for me.

Prompt 3: Read a book that inspired a movie you have already seen

For this prompt, I decided on ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan.

I had already seen the movie and it remains, to date, one of the best movies I have ever seen. However, I did think that the writing style of this book was unnecessarily long and twisted as well as unnecessarily descriptive. I think perhaps the fact that I have already watched the movie, may have affected my understanding and viewing of the novel but that is not to say I did not enjoy it. It was certainly wonderful but could have been way shorter. Overall, it is a beautiful tragedy and I could definitely pick it up again, albeit after some time. I am not ready for my heart to be completely broken again. It was a 5star read for me.

It was also the second Ia McEwan book I picked up, the first being the book for Prompt 4.

Prompt 4: Read the first book you touch

For this prompt, I chose my first ever book by Ian McEwan – ENDURING LOVE.

It was as much a psychological novel as it was a literary masterpiece. McEwan has a superb mastery of language, seamlessly binding together utterly contrasting worlds of the entities of psychology, literature, and the hold over the readers’ catharsis. I was hooked from the very beginning by the story and the wonderful and seductive mix of literary fiction and psychology. It had a wonderful quality of the mystery of the unknown and fear of the known. It was a terrifying and exhilarating read. I rated it 4stars.

Prompt 5: Read a book completely not in your house

For this prompt, I picked up a wonderful anthology and read it on my grandma’s balcony.

FEARLESS LOVE was a superb anthology of works revolving around the LGBTQIA lives. These poignant and close-to-the-heart pieces from a variety of writers, in the ways that they expressed them in (short story, poetry, song lyrics, research essays, etc), throbbed with the resonance of their lives and the ways in which they matter, despite how society says otherwise. I rated it 5stars.

PROMPT 6: Read a book from your least read genre

Now this is where I started to stack up. Literary Fiction is a genre in which I have only started to dive in. As such, I believe the books ENDURING LOVE and ATONEMENT, were apt for this prompt as well.

PROMPT 7: Read a book set in a different continent than the one you are in (Asia)

Since I am in India (Asia), I felt that all the other book excepting SEA PRAYER and FEARLESS LOVE were apt for this prompt too. However, I did have an audiobook of PERSUASION from Netgalley and so I decided to pick up this classic set in Europe.

Like all of Jane Austen’s other works, this one too was a social commentary wrapped within a romance at the core. However, as is classic Austen, there is a superb intertwining of the social with the private. It is as much a social commentary as a journey into the minds of the characters and the psyche of theirs, all of which were affected so much by the social norms and expectations.
The narration was a fantastic one however I do believe the narrator could have included a bit more expression in his narration. Other than that, it was a perfect couple of days that I spent with this short yet significant read. I loved the classic Austen story and look forward to reading more of her works including Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park. I rated it 5stars!

My Reading Rush Experience

I had a lot of fun this time around and if you haven’t participated in a Rush before, I definitely recommend you do. It is the best time you can have as a bibliophile, chatting and connecting with other such book lovers during this readathon!

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