Marlowe Granados Can Get You In Anywhere
The Happy Hour author talks about her bold debut, breaking party girl cliches, and why she doesn’t fear aging.
How do you make the most out of a summer in New York?Happy Houris a charming ode to the young women traipsing around downtown who always have somewhere to be. The debut novel by Marlowe Granados, written in diary form, takes place in one electric summer in New York, from late May to Labor Day. The 21-year-old protagonists, Isa and Gala, always seem to be whisked away to parties and art openings at a moment’s notice and sneaking in the back door of places where they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed.
Happy Houris confirmation that it’s possible to meet people and make connections with strangers in passing—if we’re bold enough to follow Isa’s lead.Granados writes about clothes and style the way that Nora Ephron writes about food. She extends grace and patience to her protagonists, never condescending to the confident young women looking for their next gig to pay this month’s rent. The book might make you nostalgic for your early 20s, the author’s age when she wrote the novel. But as Gala, the headstrong half of the duo, says, “I, for one, am trying to stay young for as long as possible.” There is no time for sadness when you’re bumping into flings and friends left, right, and center.
Taking inspiration from pre-Code cinema—the era before the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code, which censored how sex and violence could be portrayed on screen—the novel is replete with one-liners and the screwball comedy energy ofGentlemen Prefer Blondes headtopics.com
, in which infidelity takes place off screen. Echoing the opening line ofPride and Prejudice, Isa fills her diary with witticisms about how a proper party girl should move though life, like a conspiratorial, charismatic new acquaintance whispering secrets at a party, beginning the novel with: “My mother always told me that to be a girl one must be especially clever.”
Granados sat down with ELLE.com the day after she attended Balenciaga’s Met Gala after party, when she was still reeling from. She was in town from her native Toronto for the U.S. publication ofHappy Hour. We met up at The Public Hotel—they were serving martinis in plastic cups, which she deemed “not correct”— to talk about indulgence, staying curious, and a new narrative for girls who like to have fun.
In your novel, Isa and Gala work as much as they can so they can live a very modest but glamorous life, just enough to pay for the cab home from a party. But as they work from gig to gig to make money, their life doesn’t always feel aspirational. Were you always interested in that world?
Definitely. I think it’s a constant urge. I like getting away with things. I love that they were able to get away with stuff and there's a sense of mischief. That’s really important and also really integral to reading the book—feeling a sense of glee about getting away with something. I remember being young and, especially when we were underage, getting in somewhere, like getting snuck in or going through the back door somewhere. The sense of being able to have a night that you instigated was really important to me. I wanted to have these girls be very naughty, go around New York, and people being like, “I don't know what to do with you.” headtopics.com
It's really funny to me that these are the kind of girls to whom exciting things just happen. They’re getting whisked away at a moment's notice. There’s a brief Hamptons interlude. But they also have an incredible confidence and sense of agency. Was that something that you intended on writing into the characters?
When I was young, I never felt that I had no power. I understand, I didn't have any power, structurally, of course, especially as someone who's non-white and didn't come from a privileged background. But the sense that you could take the world by the reins, as a young person, as a young woman was important. I’ve just never seen anything like that in the contemporary landscape, and that annoyed me because I lived like that for so long. I needed there to be something for my friends to consume that felt more realistic to how we live.
Basia WyszynskiIsa and Gala are reminiscent of characters from old Hollywood and pre-Code cinema. They’re young women doing their thing. But in modern literature, it feels like there always has to be some limiting caveat to reel them back in.There’s a looming presence of some sort, like violence or something catastrophic happening to them. That doesn’t interest me in terms of a plot device. I understand why people would want that, but it's also forcing growth in a way that I think is actually kind of overwrought. When things happen to me or my friends, I'm not immediately taking that into my life and being like,
I've learned from this and I'm never gonna do this again, like, ever. It takes so long to actually be like,Oh, I made a mistake. Maybe I'll do it again a few other times. We think of novels as these very isolated instances of this kind of form. But I actually think we're much more accustomed now to have plotless narratives like in TV, in a way that’s much more natural to us. We need to speed up this appetite in other mediums because it's much more realistic to how people live. headtopics.com
In narrative storytelling, there always has to be the “inciting incident” that happens to the character, but in the city, every single day, there's an inciting incident.It is interesting when people are like, “There's no plot.” Every night is a plot! Every night something's happening when you live like that. It’s so different. When every night is a new adventure, something bad might happen or something incredible might happen. Then you go to sleep, and then you wake up and you're ready to have this next thing happen. It's this accumulation of experiences that is more interesting to me.
“I never think about youth in a way that’s slipping through my fingers. I just think it’s a shift in strength.”There is something special in writing about these girls who occupy spaces, or want to occupy spaces, that they're not necessarily allowed to be in. They somehow get their way in there. Is that how you wanted to portray them?
It’s the main theme, and it was more important to me, especially as opposed to romantic situations. I wanted it to be very much like an adventure, but in a way that people wouldn't expect. When we think about young women, we don't think of adventure-like narrative. There’s been a [dilution] of young women in the city and the glamour of that. I think it's so odd that we are like,
Oh, it’s just another book about young people in New York. I don't know how we've gotten so jaded about this theme. It’s so bizarre to me because I think that there's still so much space that you can do it in a different way that isn't expected.
Your main characters are surprisingly self-aware for 21-year-olds who like they should be going out every night to take full advantage of what the city has to offer. I wonder what you think about the importance of indulging in life in the luxurious way that Isa and Gala do in spite of their economic circumstances.
I think people are always like,Oh party girls, what about that is the thing?I think it’s much more about a philosophy of plunging in and going in so many directions. It’s a shame that young women are so self conscious at that age, because that’s the time when you should be making the most and being the naughtiest, worst version of yourself. I think that once you free yourself, it feels so much more relaxing. I don’t think that people should worry that much about little things. To have young women in the novel be very unapologetic about who they are and not second guess themselves, that’s a large part of what I truly believe. In my adult life, I only recently realized that people are not themselves all the time. That’s super stressful. Even when I’m in my worst state, I don't worry because I'm like,
well, I would have done it anyways. It’s just a nice way to move, I guess. Read more: ELLE Magazine (US) »
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