Fridays at Enrico’s

Fridays at Enrico's

Don Carpenter, finished by Jonathan Lethem
Fridays at Enrico’s 
(Counterpoint, April 2014)

Don Carpenter was one of the finest novelists in the West. His first novel, A Hard Rain Falling, published in 1966, has been championed by Richard Price, and George Pelecanos called it “a masterpiece . . . the definitive juvenile-delinquency novel and a damning indictment of our criminal justice system.” His novel A Couple of Comedians is thought by some the best novel about Hollywood ever written.Fridays at Enrico’s is the story of four writers living in Northern California and Portland during the early, heady days of the Beat scene, a time of youth and opportunity. This story mixes the excitement of beginning with the melancholy of ambition, often thwarted and never satisfied. Loss of innocence is only the first price you pay. These are people, men and women, tender with expectation, at risk and in love. Carpenter also carefully draws a portrait of these two remarkable places, San Francisco and Portland, in the ’50s and early ’60s, when writers and bohemians were busy creating the groundwork for what came to be the counterculture.The complete penultimate manuscript forgotten since the author’s death, was recently discovered, and we’re thrilled to see this book into print.

“With the publication of Fridays at Enrico’s — a manuscript rescued and ably finished by the novelist Jonathan Lethem — Carpenter hits the bull’s-eye. Not since F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up has a posthumous work acted as the death knell for a generation with such assuredness.”
–Douglas Brinkley, New York Times Book Review

“Novelist/screenwriter Carpenter committed suicide in 1995, but the complete manuscript of this work was recently discovered and has been edited by MacArthur Fellow Lethem. Carpenter intended to write a biography of his friend, novelist Richard Brautigan, but felt more comfortable using Brautigan as a model for fiction. VERDICT Not just a nostalgia trip into the counterculture, this work vividly recalls a time and place in forthright, engaging language.”
Library Journal, Top Indie Fiction Spring/Summer 2014

“This recently discovered, not-quite-final draft has been lovingly shaped for publication by author Jonathan Lethem. Carpenter (1932–1995), author of 10 novels, was a veteran of the West Coast literary scene….This publication is an important event: Welcome back, Don Carpenter.”
Kirkus, starred review

“There is a pleasure in reading about the role reversals in the literary community that Carpenter so painstakingly depicts in Friday’s at Enrico’s, but the real joy of this book is in the depiction of real aspects of such an important time for Californian literature that doesn’t get too glassy-eyed and nostalgic. As Lethem writes in the afterword, “Carpenter writes as someone who knows the West as a real geography, with a culture of its own, a place to live the usual quandaries of existence, rather than a petri dish for American Destiny.””
KQED Radio

“The novel demonstrates the harsh limits on satisfaction in the life of a writer. Each character’s journey is depicted without sentimentality. They each endeavor to write and publish when they can, but the moments of joy publication brings them are brief. This world is one without lasting certitude. Peace and satisfaction sometimes obtained, but difficult to possess for too long.”
The Rumpus

“His writing, about Portland pool hustlers, lady-killing comedians, and drug-sniffing screenwriters, is as radiant and surprising now as it was the moment it was written…Carpenter’s novels stand out for their resolute, hardscrabble sunniness…his love for the West Coast, for old movies and cold beer, and, above all else, for writing, suffuses every page…Enrico’s is unquestionably his masterpiece.”

“Fridays at Enrico’s lovingly follows the literary fortunes of a ragtag band of West Coast hopefuls from their clumsy first drafts and drunken love affairs through bestsellerdom, writer’s block and the Hollywood script mills.”
—Stewart O’Nan, author of Last Night at the Lobster, and Emily, Alone

Fridays At Enrico’s may be the truest depiction of literary life I’ve ever encountered. Truer than Lost Illusions, truer than New Grub Street; Carpenter depicts the lives of his bohemians up and down the west coast with a kind of calm radiance.”
—Matthew Specktor, author of American Dream Machine

Fridays at Enrico’s is thrilling, hypnotic, funny, so precise and lyrical at the same time. It broke my heart, in a good way, to feel him so alive again on the page, writing at the peak of his powers, capturing the literary scene, everyone’s tender dark wounded heart, the wild and redemptive beauty of nature…he had an amazing mind—brilliant, compassionate and angry, wise and mesmerizing, and this book is all those things, too.”
—Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird and Stitches

Buzzfeed, Jonathan Lethem Talks Don Carpenter

The Paris Review, Jonathan Lethem on finishing Carpenter