cover image Waiting for the Weekend

Waiting for the Weekend

Witold Rybczynski. Viking Books, $18.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83001-5

Rybczynski ( Home ) traces the evolution of the seven-day week back to the Babylonian calendar and, more recently, to the Great Depression, when the two-day weekend became institutionalized in the U.S., with shorter work hours viewed as an antidote to unemployment. The common 19th-century European practice of ``keeping Saint Monday,'' or not working on Monday, paved the way for the modern weekend, which the author sees as a reflection of our mechanized culture: ``We want the freedom to be leisurely, but we want it regularly . . . like clockwork.'' In an enchanting, strikingly profound meditation on the relationship between leisure and labor, Rybczynski investigates holy days, precursors of modern holidays, and sketches a social history of reading, TV-watching and gardening. His beautifully written book is full of interesting tidbits: the Japanese language has no word for leisure; 22 million Americans work more than 49 hours a week. (Aug.)