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Fridays at Enrico’s

A Novel

List Price: $15.95

April 14, 2015 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 352 Pages | ISBN 9781619025400

“Now at last, with the publication of Fridays at Enrico’s…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.” —New York Times Book Review 

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.

Carpenter was a close friend of many San Francisco writers, but his closest friendship was with Richard Brautigan, and when Brautigan killed himself, Carpenter tried for some time to write a biography of his remarkable, deeply troubled friend.

He finally abandoned that in favor of writing a novel. 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 tale of 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. A great champion of Don Carpenter, Jonathan Lethem took on the task of editing and developing this last draft into the shape we imagine Carpenter would have himself accomplished had he lived to see this through.

DON CARPENTER was born in Berkeley in 1932. Raised in Portland, he enlisted in the air force and returned to the Bay Area at the end of his service. He published ten novels during his lifetime, and he had a successful career as a screenwriter, living for long periods in Hollywood. After years of poor health he committed suicide in Mill Valley in 1995.


“Now at last, with the publication of Fridays at Enrico’s…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…I find strange solace in knowing that Carpenter, against all odds, wrote an offbeat classic about the Beat milieu from his Mill Valley home…Carpenter’s long, difficult career was over, but he left Fridays at Enrico’s on the shelf as a generous parting gift.” —New York Times Book Review 

“So it’s only fitting that in Don Carpenter’s last, posthumously published novel, Fridays at Enrico’s, lovingly put together, with minimal editorial interventions, by longtime fan Jonathan Lethem, Carpenter bids a fond, unsentimental farewell to the searching souls of San Francisco… Taken as a whole, Carpenter’s work is in part a rebellion against preconceived notions against ‘good taste,’ whether by society at large or East Coast keepers of the literary faith.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“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. Though they occasionally wallow in life’s darker vices, Carpenter’s novels stand out for their resolute, hardscrabble sunniness. Here was a man who knew frustration and failure better than most—he committed suicide in 1995 after years of declining health—yet 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.” —Grantland

“And so we are given, as lucky surprise, something no one thought to even wish for, as this is the great book of what it might have been when the West Coast’s writing scene coalesced as something unto its own self in all its—yes!—even belligerent childishness, without either undue inferiority or deference toward the more grown-up and proper Literary East…And I am deeply touched and heartened—as it’s a hopeful lesson to us all—that out of what was the terminal misery of Don Carpenter’s last days he thought to leave us this masterpiece.” —The Huffington Post

Fridays at Enrico’s has a finger on the pulse of California’s Beat movement…Carpenter captures the bleakness of a writing life, but also the wild highs of recognition.” —The Rumpus

“This publication is an important event: Welcome back, Don Carpenter.” —Kirkus Starred Review

“Not just a nostalgia trip into the counterculture, this work vividly recalls a time and place in forthright, engaging language.”Library Journal

“I don’t suppose I’ll ever get over my friend Don Carpenter’s tragic death, but it helps more than a little that as his legacy he left us his best book: Fridays at Enrico’s.” —Curt Gentry, author of J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets and Helter Skelter

“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, and with an equipoise between hope and despair. The result is a kind of stoic classic, like John Williams’ Stoner. I can’t recommend it highly enough.” —Matthew Specktor, author of American Dream Machine, and The Sting

“Like Chuck Kinder’s Honeymooners, 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. Don Carpenter knows how heartbreakingly funny the artist’s peculiar unhappiness can be.” —Stewart O’Nan, author of Last Night at the Lobster and Emily, Alone

“The writer’s life is a favorite subject for many authors, but Fridays at Enrico’s is Don Carpenter from front to back—spare but unsparing, plain-spoken but filigreed with moments of bright poetry, and focused on ordinary people climbing out of the holes they’re in only to dig deeper ones for themselves. Edited by Jonathan Lethem with a light and sympathetic touch, Carpenter’s final novel is an unexpected treat.” —Christopher Sorrentino, author of Trance, Believeniks!, and American Tempura

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