Happy Hour
by Marlowe Granados
image of Happy Hour book by Marlowe Granados
One thing that I love about moving to New York is that the first couple of years are like dancing. There is a physical and spiritual rhythm to the place, and if you move here with no real ties, you must let the city lead. Otherwise you’ll get frustrated with its dissonance.

Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados is a perfect illustration of dancing with New York. Two friends move to the city with no jobs. They hop from random gig to random gig and night out to night out as they take one step of the dance at a time. They find men at bars to pay for their drinks. They meet people in high places who they can use to their advantage.

“You grifters have to come up with a plan. Maggie’s going to come for your rent next week. How are you supposed to pay for that? You go out every night. That’s got to add up.” “Lucian,” I laughed. “Going out doesn’t cost us money.”

There’s not a lot of developed backstory, which seems to work as it is an empirically in-the-moment novel.

Characters come in and out of frame in the form of acquaintances Isa, the narrator, has met in former lives - lives she lived outside of New York. They all have a delightful name and are outlined just enough for the reader to enjoy their ephemeral placement. They exist simply to move the story along — giving them a gig, opening up their home, connecting them to someone who they’ll need down the road — as if they are checkpoints.

The story reads like a handwritten letter, one where you want to recount every detail of a story or an experience, but your hand’s getting tired from writing. There are cliffs of impact, sentences and paragraphs that leave you giving yourself time to wonder or laugh before continuing onward. Isa is first and foremost an observer and therefore language is trimmed and sparse in order to communicate efficiently. She has calculated how to take in the world and, reciprocally, reveals herself in measured increments to show for it. Sometimes it feels like she’s remembering she has an audience, that she realizes she holds the power to create an ambiance with her 'indelible' details of recollection, or her lack thereof.

Everytime I think to describe the weather, it is always sticky and unbearable.

Happy Hour reminded me of The Idiot by Elif Batuman because of its main character’s undeniable self-awareness, yet it had the no-nonsense, lets-move-it-along feel of Writers and Lovers by Lily King (along with its themes of grief). Not quite a beach read, but not one that ends up half-finished on your shelf either. I can imagine it’s best paired with a gin martini as you enjoy the sticky breeze from your fire escape on a late August afternoon.