Two decades have passed since I wrote this book, which documents the experience of Saturday night in two dozen communities across the United States. Now, more than 20 years later, I've followed up with the many people and places from the book to see where they are today. This new edition of Saturday Night includes all the text of the original book plus an afterward that reflects on the changes that have come to pass -- and also how some things, surprisingly, stay the same.
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. I traveled around the country and spent Saturday nights with many people in many situations: I wanted to find out what, given some spare time and no directives or obligations, people find themselves doing.
I was interested in certain themes (what it's like to work on Saturday, the too-common occurrence of Saturday-night murder); in types of people (the hostess, the down-and- outer); in specific places and communities; and in classic weekend situations. I 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.
"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."
"Orlean's high spirits and intelligence give her book the feeling of a good Saturday-night conversation. Her chapters are like the beginnings of suspenseful novels."
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
"An unusual and entertaining cultural profile ... with the drollness of her prose, the sharpness of her ear and eye, and her breadth of curiosity … Enlightening."
Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"Delightful ... Entertaining and interesting … A pleasant reminder of how we are at once united by certain of our national customs yet divided by the individual or tribal ways in which we celebrate them."
David Finkle, Chicago Tribune
"Amusing and informative ... Orlean has a nearly unerring ear and eye for the pithy and the illuminating."