“Our Lady of the Quarry”
by Mariana Enríquez
translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
from the December 21, 2020 issue of The New Yorker
I fully expected this to be the final issue of The New Yorker for 2020 since usually the last two weeks of the year are combined into one. Indeed, in 2016 Enriquez’s “Spiderweb” (the only prior publication she has in the magazine) was published in the December 19 & 26 issue (see the post here). Wow — those four years . . .
Enríquez has published four novels (that I can find), though I don’t believe any have been translated into English. As far as I can tell, at this point we have just one collection of stories, 2017’s Things We Lost in the Fire. In January 2021 we will be getting a second, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed.
Looking back at “Spiderwebs” I don’t believe I ever read it, though I was excited to based on her publisher’s comparisons to Shirley Jackson and Julio Cortázar. It does appear that it was well received.
Here we have “Our Lady of the Quarry,” translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, whose work I really like. As this story begins, we learn about Silvia, the “grown-up friend” of our first-person plural narrator(s). Whoever is telling this story, they do not like Silvia, even if at first glance Silvia seems to be a good friend:
She was our “grownup” friend, the one who took care of us when we went out and let us use her place to smoke weed and meet up with boys. But we wanted her ruined, helpless, destroyed. Because Silvia always knew more: if one of us discovered Frida Kahlo, oh, Silvia had already visited Frida’s house with her cousin in Mexico, before he vanished. If we tried a new drug, she had already overdosed on the same substance. If we discovered a band we liked, she had already got over her fandom of the same group. We hated that her long, heavy, straight hair was colored with a dye we couldn’t find in any normal beauty salon. What brand was it? She probably would have told us, but we would never ask. We hated that she always had money, enough for another beer, another ten grams, another pizza. How was it possible?
I can see a shade of Jackson here, and I like it! I hope to get to it today, and I hope to go back and read “Spiderwebs.”
Let me know what you think!