How to make the most of a summer in New York? Happy Hour is a charming ode to the young women who hang out in the city center and always have somewhere to go. Marlowe Granados’ first novel, written in diary form, takes place during an electric summer in New York City from late May to Labor Day. The 21-year-old protagonists Isa and Gala always seem to be taken to parties and vernissages at all times and sneak through the back doors of places where they would otherwise not be allowed. Happy Hour is confirmation that it is possible to meet people and bond with strangers on the way, if we are bold enough to follow Isa’s lead.
Granados writes about clothing and style like Nora Ephron writes about food. She shows grace and patience to her protagonists, never condescending to confident young women looking for their next gig to pay this month’s rent. The book might make you nostalgic for your early twenties, the author’s age when she wrote the novel. But as Gala, the stubborn half of the duo, says, “I for one try to stay young as long as possible.” There is no time for sadness when you run into adventures and friends on the left, right and center.
Drawing inspiration from pre-Code cinema – the time before the Motion Picture Production Code was applied, which censored how sex and violence could be portrayed onscreen – the novel is bursting with lines and energy. comic of Men prefer blondes, in which the infidelity takes place offscreen. Echoing the opening line of Pride and Prejudice, Isa fills her journal with witticisms about how a true party girl should go through life, such as a conspiratorial and charismatic new acquaintance whispering secrets at a party, beginning the novel with, “My mother got me. always said that to be a girl you have to be especially smart.
Granados met ELLE.com the day after attending Balenciaga’s Met Gala after party, when she was still in shock. meets Charli D’Amelio. She was in her hometown of Toronto for the American publication of Happy Hour. We met at the Public Hotel – they were serving martinis in plastic cups, which she deemed “incorrect” – to talk about indulgence, curiosity and a new story for fun-loving girls.
In your novel, Isa and Gala work as hard as they can to lead a very modest but glamorous life, just enough to pay for the cab back from a party. But since they work together in concert to earn money, their lives don’t always seem ambitious. Have you always been interested in this world?
Absoutely. I think it’s a constant urge. I like to get away from it all. I love that they were able to get away with stuff and that there was a feeling of mischief. It’s really important and also really essential to reading the book – to feel a sense of joy about getting away with something. I remember being young and, especially when we were minors, going in somewhere, like sneaking in or going through the back door somewhere. The feeling of being able to spend a night that you instigated was really important to me. I wanted these girls to be really naughty, to go around New York City, and for people to be like, “I don’t know what to do with you.”
It’s really funny to me that these are the kind of girls that exciting things happen to. They are carried away at all times. There is a brief interlude of the Hamptons. But they also have incredible confidence and agency. Was this something you intended to write in the characters?
When I was young, I never felt that I had no power. I understand, I had no power, structurally, of course, especially as a person who is not white and who did not come from a privileged background. But the feeling of being able to take the world by the reins, as a young person, as a young woman, was important. I’ve just never seen anything like it in the contemporary landscape, and it annoyed me because I’ve lived like this for so long. I needed there to be something for my friends to consume that was more realistic about our way of life.
Isa and Gala recall the characters of old Hollywood and pre-Code cinema. These are young women doing their thing. But in modern literature it feels like there always has to be a limiting caveat to bring them back.
There is an impending presence of some sort, like violence or something catastrophic happening to them. I am not interested in terms of the plot device. I understand why people would want this, but it also forces growth in a way that I think is actually a bit overworked. When things happen to me or my friends, I don’t immediately take that into my life and I think to myself, I learned from this and I never will, like, never. It takes so long to be like, Oh i made a mistake. Maybe I’ll do it again a few more times. We think of novels as those very isolated examples of this kind of form. But I actually think we’re a lot more used now to having non-plot stories like on TV, in a way that’s a lot more natural to us. We need to speed up that appetite in other mediums because it’s much more realistic compared to the way people live.
In storytelling, there always has to be an “inciting incident” that happens to the character, but in town, every day there is an inciting incident.
It’s interesting when people say, “There’s no plot. Every night is a plot! Every night something happens when you live like this. It is so different. When every night is a new adventure, something bad can happen or something amazing can happen. Then you fall asleep and then you wake up and ready for the next thing to happen. It is this accumulation of experiences that interests me the most.
There is something special about the writing of these girls who occupy spaces, or want to occupy spaces, in which they are not necessarily allowed to be. They do it one way or another. Is that how you wanted to represent them?
That’s the main theme, and it was more important to me, especially as opposed to romantic situations. I wanted it to be really like an adventure, but in a way that people wouldn’t expect. When we think of young women, we don’t think of an adventure story. There was one [dilution] young women in the city and the glamor of that. I think it’s so strange that we are like, Oh, it’s just another book about young people in New York. I don’t know how we got so jaded about this theme. It’s so weird for me because I think there is still so much space that you can do it in a different way than you might expect.
Your main characters are surprisingly self-aware for 21-year-olds who like to go 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 the luxurious life that Isa and Gala make despite their economic situation.
I think people are still like, Oh party girls, what’s the point? I think it’s a lot more of a philosophy to dive in and go in so many directions. It’s a shame that young women are so shy at this age because this is the time when you should be making the most of yourself and being the meanest, worst version of yourself. I think once you break free it’s so much more relaxing. I don’t think people should worry so much about the little things. Having young women in the novel who don’t apologize for who they are and don’t question themselves is a big part of what I really believe. In my adult life, I only recently realized that people are not themselves all the time. It’s super stressful. Even when I’m in my worst condition, I don’t care cause I’m like, well I would have done it anyway. It’s just a nice way to move, I guess.
It helps when you are a fun person!
Law. Some people are terrible, just naturally. So maybe they shouldn’t be doing this. It was also important to me that there was heat [in the novel]. They are really generous in their way of seeing others. I think it’s really easy for people to be cruel. When I text someone it’s actually really easy to be mean and mean. But it’s harder, when I was writing I had to go against my natural reaction most of the time. Isa is very kind and warm. She is malicious in her criticism.
Do you think it is possible to live a charming or charming life in a dark world?
I think it has something to do with curiosity and that childish way of looking at the world. The whole philosophy of these girls is that they always say yes. I think people should just be more open and talk to people around them. I wanted to encourage people to be a little more adventurous just by reading the book. You don’t even have to like the things they like either. You must be a little curious about beauty and what you find beautiful. Your condition surrounds you with so many things that make you happy, joyful, and useful.
You mentioned that the world of Happy Hour is inspired by your younger years. Is this a world that still interests you? How has your philosophy of life changed since?
I think I’ll always be interested in this world in some way. I am no longer chasing him at the same speed. I never think of youth in a way that slips through my fingers. I just think it’s a change of strength. A lot of times I’ll be in situations where I’m like, thank goodness I’m older, because I said the thing that when I was younger I would have been afraid to say. I’m interested now in how you lose a certain type of power. With a lot of my friends dating younger women, I’m not suspicious, but I’m also very interested in this change. How come I feel so good to be older, and yet the age in general as a woman is not good? Youth, in the novel, and being a young girl is a nice trick. It’s something that people invest money in. I’m now more interested in power and how as you get older you gain a kind of power that you didn’t have before. It’s for the second volume.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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