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In 1985, I started traveling around the country spending Saturday night in as many different kinds of communities as I could. I've always tried to figure out what people of all ages, races, classes, regions, and backgrounds have in common (and what they don't have in common, too), and Saturday night seemed like a perfect lens to use. I spent Saturday nights with teenagers and old people, in a nuclear missile silo and at a Park Avenue dinner party, with a bar band and at a black church social and with a suburban babysitter, and occasionally (very occasionally) at home.
"Saturday Night is different from all other nights of the week. People get together, go dancing, go bowling, go drinking, go out to dinner, get drunk, get killed, kill other people, visit friends, sleep, gamble, watch television, go cruising, and fall in love-just as they do every other day, but on Saturday night they do these things more often and with more passion and intent. Susan Orlean has traveled around the country and spent Saturday nights with many people in many situations: she wanted to find out what, given some spare time and no directives or obligations, people find themselves doing. With her keen eye and warm heart, and a good ear for the authentic, odd remark, she was perfect for the assignment.
"Ms. Orlean looked at certain themes (what it's like to work on Saturday, the too-common occurrence of Saturday-night murder); types of people (the hostess, the down-and-outer); places and communities; classic weekend situations. She spent Saturday night with middle-aged zydeco dancers in Houston, with young army guys in a missile silo deep under Wyoming, with a lounge band in an Oregon restaurant, with convicts in a North Carolina jail, with undergrads bussing between Wellesley and Harvard Square, with obsessed dieters at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami Beach, with Hispanic girls making their debut in Phoenix, and with many more-the young, the old, rich, poor, rural, urban-who are having (or trying to have) a wonderful time.
"How is Saturday night different now than in the past? How has the breakdown of the old weekday patterns-with automatic teller machines, all-night delis, staggered work shifts-affected good old Saturday night? Asking these and other questions, Susan Orlean has mined a hitherto untapped vein of living Americana and given us an eye-opening, original, sometimes hilarious, and always irresistible book."
"Tight, clean prose and thoughtful observations make this series of essays about the Saturday night experience hum with all the vitality and activity of its subject."