In debut novel Happy Hour, Marlowe Granados delves into world of glamour, parties, & friendship

Granados wants girls in books to have more fun

Marlowe Granados discussed her lates novel Happy Hour with The Journal.
Photo: 
Marlowe Granados likes to browse.
 
You can tell from the way her living room—the background of our Zoom call—is decorated, in a manner both elegant and curated. Only someone with a good eye can make it look entirely natural. 
 
Isa and Gala, the protagonists of her debut novel Happy Hour, also like to browse. They have that same keen eye, but instead it’s trained on searching for the next gig, the next good time. 
 
It’s the summer of 2013, and Isa and Gala have just arrived in New York City, renting a room in a shared Brooklyn house, ready to take on whatever the city has to offer. With a cast of characters large enough to fill a banquet hall, the novel is a vivid and accurate depiction of a specific slice of youth, at once universal and ultra-particular. 
 
Written in the style of a picaresque, Happy Hour draws us into the action fueled by Gala’s charisma and Isa’s self-assured voice. As we read Isa’s diary entries over the course of their summer, we watch as the two girls hop from job to job, party to party, in a manner that verges on mythic.  
 
“I want people to be guided through this world with them and feel like you kind of trust them enough. You don’t have to like them, but I feel like you should trust them,” Granados told The Journal about her plucky heroines. 
 
To her credit, Isa and Gala are both trustworthy and likeable, and their relationship glows with the realistic love and tension of being attached to someone so closely since childhood. 
 
One thing Granados was adamant about was that neither of the girls in her story be punished by the end. Delving deeper into the novel, the reader may grow concerned that there’s a major traumatic event just around the corner; some sort of karmic retribution is sure to befall girls who purely want to have fun. But there isn’t. 
 
It isn’t that the protagonists’ actions don’t have consequences or that they’re exempt from the turmoil of everyday life. Rather, the novel doesn’t unnecessarily punish them for their femininity or their lack of a desire to participate in capitalist society in a traditional fashion. 
 
Granados has no interest in moralizing or chastising the actions of her characters. They know they’re not perfect and that’s enough.
 
I asked Marlowe whether any television series jumped out at her as breaking the mold that continues to discipline young women in upsetting or violent ways. She noted that the praise for The Queen’s Gambit was peculiar, not because it wasn’t a good show, but rather that the audience was vocal about how happy they were that Beth wasn’t assaulted during the series.
 
“It was weird to me that we’re so happy that she wasn’t a victim of sexual violence […] That’s very bizarre as a culture to feel so taken aback by something like that.” 
 
Isa and Gala experience their own shares of grief throughout childhood and adolescence, but Granados deftly depicts navigating trauma without patronizing her subjects or adhering to this unspoken rule that female pleasure should inherently be linked to pain. 
 
“I think that that’s also a really underrated talent that women have often is when they’re able to retell a story and have a sense of humour about it, and then be able to be very self-aware about the situation that they’re in,” Granados said. 
 
The act of developing one’s own narrative and the way we tell stories to one another is a through line in much of Granados’ work, including her short film The Leaving Party, which she wrote and directed. 
 
Although social media and its effects on social hierarchy—explored in The 
Leaving Party— are absent in Happy Hour, Isa’s documentation of her summer in New York is powerful because she exercises control over her own narrative. 
 
“We afford men this kind of complexity, this room for error, and this redemption arc that is not really afforded to women,” Granados said.
 
In literature, when girls are given that opportunity, they’re often taken advantage of because of their youth and inexperience and come out stronger on the other end because they’ve overcome something. Happy Hour goes a different route.
 
“The novel is really about a young woman telling her own story and being able to have that kind of control, which I think is really rare.”
 

It is rare, but Happy Hour lets us live in a world where a woman’s command over her own narrative is unencumbered by the trappings of an author out to get them.

This isn’t to say their world is perfect, or that Isa and Gala move through life with some sort of magical ease. But Granados crafts a world where her protagonists can be themselves—their insecure, unabashed, and vibrant selves—on their own terms. 

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