Getting Away With It With Marlowe Granados
Writer and party girl Marlowe Granados discloses her influences, what it was like working with Verso, and the best pieces in her closet.
By Cora Lee
Photo by Danielle Aphrodite Nemet
Hot Girl Lit is a monthly column that catalogs hot reads by hot writers.
I have never seen an unflattering photo of Marlowe Granados. I have trouble even imagining what one would look like. To be that hot and talented seems unfair, like God doled out too many of his little gifts to just one person. Yet, I cannot look away! In addition, she has immaculate taste in a timeless bygone-era sort of way—vintage designer pieces, bold patterns, silk scarves. Her wardrobe is chic and colorful and definitely never boring; the same goes for her writing.
In her essays and articles, Granados covers topics traditionally seen as feminine—fashion, glamour, romance, parties. It's a treat to have “girly” subject matter addressed with sincerity. She imbues her work with the perfect balance of intelligence and fun. Her debut novel, Happy Hour, was called “effervescent,” “charismatic,” and “mischievous” by The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Publishers Weekly (respectively). With adjectives like that, you know it has to be good.
Happy Hour follows Isa and Gala––codependent 21-year-olds traipsing around New York City, always on the lookout for free drinks and a plate of oysters to share. Their hedonism is tempered by their scrappiness—unable to legally work (as non-US citizens), they take on a series of under-the-table odd jobs to fund their party-girl escapades. The coltish, spirited prose is anchored by Isa’s discerning observations. She records the joys and pitfalls of their friendship and how that bond is tested by the world they inhabit. Granados packs this novel with scenes that capture the playful troublemaking of young womanhood.
I admitted to Granados that I had stolen my copy of Happy Hour from Barnes and Noble and offered to pay whatever she may have lost in royalties as a result (I’m not sure if that’s how book sales work). She said, “Lol, no worries about sending me $$,” and absolved me of my guilt.
Cora Lee: At first, I was surprised to see a party girl novel come out of Verso, but once I started reading Happy Hour, it was immediately clear why they published it. You incorporate social issues without the performative, prescriptive aspect that is very common in contemporary fiction. Instead, you insert comments on class and race seamlessly into the narrative. Did that come naturally to you, or was it challenging to achieve this nuance?
Marlowe Granados: I think I was always careful of seeming too obvious; it's there if you know what you're looking for. I like giving the reader the benefit of the doubt. The funniest thing I heard was when Verso pitched it to their team, all the eighty-year-old leftists on their board were the biggest of fans. I never want anything to seem dated, either. I kept out any political buzzwords. It's more embedded in the atmosphere of the novel, just like how race and class are embedded in our lives.
CL: Happy Hour really captures the joy and mischief of being a young woman and how those feelings are amplified by companionship. Female friendship is so intoxicating, and you managed to replicate that exquisitely on the page. The book is dedicated both to your mother and to your own Gala. How did the real-life Gala react to the fictional portrayal?
MG: You know, there was a time we thought it would never be published. When she first read it, I think it took her about a year. She was a little dismayed about her portrayal, but I think it was more like, "God, we were so annoying when we were twenty-one."
CL: Your writing is very smart and very fun, in a way that makes me excited about the future of literature. Who are the writers that you are currently excited about?
MG: I love that NYRB reissues old novels that have been lost to time, so I love the NYRB Classics imprint. I think it's important to read older novels to see how it was done and has been done before. I have a very stylistic voice, and I take influence from writers from previous generations. For contemporary writers, I loved Esther Yi's novel Y/N; she is doing something fun and subversive that only she could do. I think that's the highest praise for a writer. Allie Rowbottom's Aesthetica, too. Both of those novels successfully do something weird about the age we live in.
CL: You have impeccable taste in fashion, and it totally seeps through your writing (your essays, articles, and Happy Hour of course). What is one item in your closet that you can't live without?
MG: The problem is I can't limit myself to just one thing, which is why my closet is bursting at the seams. I have a few very special pieces that I probably don't even fit in anymore but keep in my collection. I have a Vivienne Westwood red silk corset dress that has a big bow at the bust. I just got a FW '11 Prada dress that has been on my list for a while…
CL: You said in an interview with Elle that you “like getting away with things.” (Which I would agree is one of the greatest feelings on earth.) What is the best thing that you’ve ever gotten away with?
MG: I wouldn't be able to say, anyway!
CL: (I figured as much, but had to ask.) You’ve mentioned a second novel in the works—is there anything you’re willing to share about it?
MG: Ha, have I mentioned a second novel? We'll see...