"The Friday Night Club" by Jacob Nelson Lurie is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time; and that's saying a lot considering I am at least a half a century older than the characters it portrays. How funny is it? Let me put it this way: I started laughing on the "Disclaimers" page before the story even starts. Here's an example, "Disclaimer A: This is a true story. Aside from the parts that aren't true, of which there are few, though not as many as you would believe." Huh? Or this, "This is a novel and not a memoir. Aside from the parts that are a memoir…of which there are many, although not as many as you would believe." Oh, I get it!
So what is the Friday Night Club and what is the book all about? It's kind of hard to explain, but in a nutshell the Friday Night Club is a group of college friends who met in a dormitory every Friday night to celebrate the week's end and fortify themselves for another soirée into the bars and clubs of Boulder, Colorado. During their college years, these friends enjoyed a joyous romp through their adolescence; a romp fueled by alcohol, driven by a constant search for sexual conquests, and littered by mistakes and poor choices. In addition to the club members, another principal looms large in the story, namely the alcohol. Lurie asserts that "alcohol is the main character, culprit, mother, lover, therapist, hero and villain."
As the book begins, Davis Roberts, the narrator of the story is walking down the aisle on his wedding day and he is scared to death. Ahead of him stands his bride to be, and in the congregation sit at least three women whom he bedded and who are in love with him. One of them he still considers the love of his life. He is badly hung over and still nursing the wounds he received during a violent and unexpected attack by a group of enraged strippers at his bachelor party. Meanwhile, the moment of truth has arrived. Should he forge ahead and marry his fiancé, thereby risking a possible death by boredom or should he abscond with the love of his life to enjoy a life of lust, passion, and uncertainty? Or perhaps he should simply walk away from it all and continue living his hedonistic life-style, filled with the proverbial wine, women, and song. It is not until the very end of the book that the reader finds out what he decides to do.
Lurie has an interesting style of writing which is an admixture of Joyce's stream of consciousness, Jack Kerouac's rambling narrative, and Henry Miller's puckish ability to combine sex and humor. The dialogue is crisp and fast moving; and as far as I can tell, authentic.
Getting back to the disclaimer page, the last paragraph suggests that there may be a higher purpose for reading the book other than simply to get a good laugh. I'll let the author have the last word.
"Whether you know this or not, these people are your friends, your lovers, or your family. I guarantee that you know someone like one of those characters. I guarantee that person has lived a life more interesting than all these characters combined. I guarantee that if you didn't know that person then, you would hate who they were. And I can guarantee that you love that person now."
So there you have it. Whether you are looking for a good laugh or a chance to reflect on your own adolescence, "The Friday Night Club" by Jacob Nelson Lurie is a damned good read!