The Frog King

The Frog King

4.0 20
by Adam Davies

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Harry Driscoll is living in New York City (if you call trying to survive on an editorial assistant's salary "living").

His family is wealthy (but Harry Driscoll is not).

His education is Ivy League (but what good is it doing him?).

His publishing job is entry level (with no exit in sight).


Harry Driscoll has a dream (if you… See more details below


Harry Driscoll is living in New York City (if you call trying to survive on an editorial assistant's salary "living").

His family is wealthy (but Harry Driscoll is not).

His education is Ivy League (but what good is it doing him?).

His publishing job is entry level (with no exit in sight).


Harry Driscoll has a dream (if you call an unfinished manuscript hidden in the closet a "dream").

Harry Driscoll has a girl (although intercourse is out of the question).

Harry Driscoll even has feelings. (He asked this girl, one day in the park, to be in his life forever--and meant it!)

And the other girls? They're not the problem. (The problem is, Harry Driscoll cannot allow himself to say the word "love.")

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Apparently the only reason to endure the low wages and lower prestige of an entry-level publishing job is that someday you can write a book about it. The latest entry in this subgenre is an intelligent and amusing but exasperating debut featuring a very self-centered leading man. Harry Driscoll works for peasant's wages as an editorial assistant at Prestige Publishing, a prominent New York City house. At the notoriously stuffy Prestige, he behaves like a college freshman showing up late, spiking his coffee, losing manuscripts and trying to prove that he's smarter than his co-workers. His favorite game is a revealing one: in a daily vocabulary contest with his one friend at Prestige, he resorts to making up words. Harry has lucked into a relationship with Evie Goddard, a pretty fellow editorial assistant who talks like an "overeducated auctioneer on speed," but he can't stop ogling other women long enough to appreciate her. He begins an affair with a powerful editor from another publishing house, but in typical loudmouth fashion, he manages to sabotage himself once again. Evie eventually tires of his behavior (readers may wonder what takes her so long), leaving him a few pages toward the novel's end to realize the error of his ways and try to win her back. Davies, who worked for Random House, makes some juicy observations about the backbiting publishing industry, but there's hardly any room for them, since Harry doesn't give much space on the page to anything but himself. 6-city author tour. (Aug. 27) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Debut about an assistant book editor by a former assistant book editor that isn't, let's hope, what current practitioners of the trade mistake for good reading. Harry's the low man on the totem pole at Prestige Books (read: Random House, Davies's former employer). The main focus of Harry's life is, first, the calendar he's supposed to be editing, and, second, his girlfriend Evie. Harry's okay, except for that brief Tony Robbins phase he went through in college and except for the fact that all he can afford for Evie's birthday is the word "callypigian." Here, we get to visit his many crazy apartments; we get to listen when he tells us, like a good whistleblower, how starving editors order their own books and resell them to the Strand Bookstore; we hear how editors routinely belittle writers in their "slush" piles; we listen as Harry fantasizes about having Philip Roth blurb one of his books (only after Harry's book has been promoted-which will never happen); and we watch as he imagines himself, "Like everybody in publishing-or every young person, at least," as a writer himself, though thankfully he concludes that "Maybe [he's] not supposed to be a writer." The main storyline concerns Evie, who loves Harry but dumps him when he slyly sleeps himself laterally through the industry, demeaning Evie's love even though she's the Bonnie to his Clyde. Anyway, love is a tiresome idea to Harry-at least until Evie's gone and then, of course, he has to stalk her until he gets the picture. The rest consists of endless insider jokes and annoying twentysomethings spending a lot of their time talking about nothing and the rest of it lamenting that they haven't done anything. Dim lights, little city. Authortour
From the Publisher
"The literary invention, metaphorical pizzazz and sheer cleverness of the prose and word-play in The Frog King is astonishing."— The Wall Street Journal

"A frisky debut." —Entertainment Weekly

"Truly compelling...Davies captures the urban-frontier quality of life in Manhattan's East Village with tender accuracy...his roller-coaster story is charm itself." —New York Daily News

"Probably the funniest young-guy-in-New York novel since Bright Lights, Big City." —Bret Easton Ellis, bestselling author of Less Than Zero and American Psycho

"Truly hilarious and so much more—totally original and yet classic, romantic, and real." —Jennifer Belle, author of High Maintenance and Going Down

"Wildly funny and original, Adam Davies perfectly recalls the crazy days of being young and daring and clueless about love and life and work. The Frog King is a captivating joyride from the very first page." —Laura Zigman, author of Animal Husbandry and Her

"Davies' subtle observations about life and strategic lack of romanticism make for an impressive and thought-provoking work, while the bizarre story-line makes for a fun and memorable read." —Booklist

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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18 Years

Read an Excerpt

could be brillig, baby

Probably I would be better off if I didn't date E women. With me it's always been Laurie, Jenni, Candy, Maggie, Debbi, Stacey—all my life, just me and the cheerleading squad. You should find yourself a nice A girl, Keeno always tells me. I can see myself dating a Sasha. There are plenty of girls out there whose names don't even end in vowels—Megan, Beth, Doris, you name it. I bet I've even slept with a few. A friend of mine in college dated a Sam, and he seemed perfectly happy. One thing's for sure: I should know by now that dating an E girl spells trouble. But then again, I have never been the kind of person who learns lessons.

So I shouldn't be that surprised to find myself at a party with a girl named Evie—Evie Goddard. It's a book party at this underground bar, one of those East Village spots where the only indicator that a bar exists is a tiny night-light of a sign next to a stairwell that's like something out of Goya. If there hadn't been a bunch of people mothing by the door I never would have found it. I am not cool enough to know where these stealth hot spots are.

Inside it is a tired-out exhibit of Manhattan's glitterati in their natural habitat. The scenery is familiar, as is the crowd. Gigless models circulate with hors d'oeuvres and the attitude of overqualified assassins. The usual assortment of slick, black-slipped New York women caress the edges of their martini glasses, trying to achieve the perfect combination of sexual desirability and haughty unattainability. And there are the characteristically coifed and manicured New York men amid all of it, indifferent as gondoliers.

The conversation, too, is familiar. It's like they're all actors trying out for the same part: they all make the same gestures with their Scotches, all display the same phony emphaticness— always a dor ing sweetie the new book or de testing dahling the latest reading—while jockeying around the latest ponytailed/goateed / ski - cap - wearing / body - pierced / dressed - all - in - black / vampiri- cally pale/Buddhistically tattooed/flagitiously alcoholic/piously macrobiotic/contemptuously unfashionable-fashionable author du jour who has just published his memoir about his delinquent youth of incest and driftery.

Please, people.  Please.  I'm only here because invitations to these events are the only real perk of my alleged job as peon in the editorial department of a big publishing house and because I am subject to the sweet delusional sorcery of the Manhattan evening, like all these people have been secretly preparing for my triumphant eclosion into their world of gossip columns and expense accounts.

Harry  Driscoll, they'll say. Where have you been? It's so good to meet you at last. We've had our plutocratic yet benevolent eyes on you for quite some time. You can come with us now.

Right. Want to know what really happens at these affairs? I have a few drinks, start enjoying the feeling of being out with Evie—letting myself buy into the false picture of young happy couple on the scene—when some swollen bigwig takes me by the elbow and tells me to get him a gimlet and make it snappy.

Which is to say: I hate these parties more than life itself.

But I am here because Evie asked me. She appeared this afternoon at my cubicle, arms dangling like fishing lines over my partition, and said, &'grave;Little Harry. I know a girl has to work hard to make your A-list, but come on: let's go rouse the rabble at this so-and-so book party. It will be like life in a Dewar's ad: all high fashion and beautiful people and that fancy kind of no-frost ice in the drinks. You will look the extremist edge of avant-garde in your piece of  merde  blazer and  cravate de  Daddy.''

Evie always talks like this. She is the most incandescent person I've ever known. I've seen her use less candlepower with other people, but with me she's always like this—an overeducated auctioneer on speed.

I should have stayed home tonight and gotten some work done. I am behind on several projects at the office, including passing to press the five thousandth annual installment of our  Marathoner's Calendar and Logbook.  For the book to go forward in a timely manner it's necessary that both design and copyediting get a clean copy of the manuscript by the deadline, and this year I'm late with it. Again. Last year I was late, too, and so the calendar missed its pub date by a whole month. ''How about that?'' I said to Andrew Nadler, my gleefully Old Testament boss. &'grave;An innovation. The world's first calendar that can't keep track of its own time.''

That was a miscalculation. Nadler didn't take it in the playful, ironic spirit I had hoped to convey.

He never does.

Part of the reason why I didn't put the calendar into production on time is that I couldn't bear to edit it. The calendar is, strictly speaking, a book. It's a spiral-bound, semiglossy, handheld number with one essay on joggerly prudence for every month of the year. In July, make sure you don't run barefoot over glass. In January, avoid polar bears. That kind of interesting stuff.

I know, I know: I shouldn't be denigrating it. It's a very flattering first step to promotion for any editorial assistant, and as I'm the very youngest assistant on the floor, I should be grateful for it. There's this guy we all call Slo-Mo who has his Ph.D. from NYU and has been working for this Brahmin editor for eight years and hasn't even handled a cookbook yet. Four years ago, in only my second year at Prestige, I was given the first calendar—way ahead of the usual assistant's schedule. I should have devoted myself to the mundane details and impressed Nadler with my meticulousness. But I just couldn't bring myself to read through those essays—wicking socks and pulmometers and body fat percentage were not why I'd gone into book publishing—and so before I knew it days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and still the manuscript languished in the bottom drawer of my desk.

Last week my friend Keeno asked me why this year's pub date was in jeopardy again. &'grave;What's taking so long? Is it that you just don't care, like last year?''

&'grave;It isn't that I don't care.''

''You having trouble with the edits?''

&'grave;It isn't the edits.''

&'grave;Well what, then? It's going to be late again, isn't it? Aren't you going to be moderately fucked?''

Keeno's wrong, of course. I'm not moderately fucked. I'm immoderately—fantastically—fucked. I'm so fucked I can't even bring myself to talk about the cause of my extravagant fuckage. It's too awful.

I don't even want to think about it.

Any way you look at it, instead of getting blurred at this party I should be taking certain corrective steps so I can pass the calendar Monday so I might have a prayer of getting it pubbed on time. But I've never been able to resist Evie, and considering the general disintegration of our relationship, I began to succumb to her suasions when she appeared at my cubicle earlier this afternoon.

''You could set a trend,'' she continued. ''The waif look is out, the overworked, undercompensated, thoroughly juiced, dead-beat-Brooks-Brothers-hand-me-down WASP look is in. What do you say? Could be brillig, baby.''

—Reprinted from Frog King by Adam Davies by permission of Riverhead, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2002, Adam Davies. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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