Twenty years ago, before she wrote The Orchid Thief or was hailed as “a national treasure” by The Washington Post, Susan Orlean was a journalist with a question: What makes Saturday night so special? To answer it, she embarked on a remarkable journey across the country and spent the evening with all sorts of people in all sorts of places—hipsters in Los Angeles, car cruisers in small-town Indiana, coeds in Boston, the homeless in New York, a lounge band in Portland, quinceañera revelers in Phoenix, and more—to chronicle the one night of the week when we do the things we want to do rather than the things we need to do. The result is an irresistible portrait of how Saturday night in America is lived that remains.
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. Freelance writer Orlean demonstrates a fine eye for detail as she describes an array of Saturday night activities: partying, watching television, geriatric polka dancing, working in a missile silo or simply cruising the streets. She explores the mystique that has grown up around Saturday night, the one night that allows significant variety and opportunity for socialization. Also examined is the seemingly random violence that occurs more often on Saturday night than at any other time. But whether discussing the social etymology of the phrase ``Saturday Night Special'' or the tribulations of arriving after 9 p.m. at the video store, which earlier ``would probably still have some color movies available,'' the book reveals much about ourselves. First serial to the New Yorker, Spy, New England Monthly, Washington Post, Boston Globe and the New York Times.