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The Frog King Paperback – August 6, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

A mediocre book leaves you cold. But an almost-great book--that's enough to make you gnash your teeth. In his debut novel, The Frog King, Adam Davies maddeningly fails to recognize and develop the terrific material he has at hand. Harry Driscoll, raised in privilege and Ivy League-educated, is a peon at a prestigious New York publishing house--in fact, the house is called Prestige--and he hates it: hates the menial labor, hates the intellectual pretension, hates the political jockeying necessary to advancement. Driscoll is terrific on the disappointment peculiar to the overeducated and underemployed: "All those years of schooling (Yes I speak Old English!) and resumé building. (Yes I interned on Capitol Hill!) didn't pertain at all to the life that was waiting for me." The insider peek at New York publishing is terrific, too, if scant: "There's a joke at Prestige that The New Yorker will publish any story that ends with the word 'home.'" Davies devotes most of his energy, however, to Harry's somewhat mystifying relationship with his girlfriend Evie. He loves her madly, but he's sleeping around. When he loses her, he continues to lie to her even as he tries to win her back. Davies may have some kind of emotional profile in mind for Harry, but he fails to put it across to the reader. Fortunately, the well-observed social comedy and nicely exaggerated workplace farce more than make up for the rest of the novel's shortcomings. --Claire Dederer

From 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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1 edition (August 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573229385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0641692611
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,526,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book was written so well and descriptive, it felt like Harry Driscoll was really someone I knew.
The book is written in a way that makes you feel like you are inside the main character's (Harry) head, so you hear, with brutual honesty, what he is thinking.
A. Royal
Not too heavy, but serious enough to believe and enjoy all of the characters, slimey as they behaved sometimes.
B. LeClaire

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Martha on August 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Frog King is to the novel as the Krispy Kreme is to the doughnut. People should stand in line to get one. I could not put it down. Although I read it in two days (at the supermarket, in line at LL Bean, walking down the street), I later wished I had controlled my appetite for his delicious prose so that it had lasted longer. But then Krispy Kremes do that to you.
Enough of the doughnot analogy. Davie's is a master story teller. The reader gets inside Harry Driscoll's mind---from one digression to the next. You can almost feel yourself sinking with Harry the hairball, wanting to beg him to see what he's doing to himself and Evie.
Publisher's Weekly didn't understand the book. It's a coming of age book. Yet it's also a book about not writing a book---until the end. It's a love story about someone who can't love. It's a non cliche about a cliche. It's a story of redemption and metamorphosis. It's a comedy about a tragedy.
Although I'm long past Harry's age, I still have a memory. But even if I could not relate to Harry's character, I would love the book for Davies' writing. It was one of the best books I've read in a long time.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Davy on August 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
is just one of the many thoughts which occurred to me during the first dozen pages or so of this delightful novel. i finished it a couple days ago, not without a pang of regret, and now i feel it is my duty to write a brief, glowing review. so first, here's what i scribbled on the glossy square of cardboard when i selected this book as my "bookseller's pick" the other day (i work at a sad little bookstore in athens, georgia, which is struggling to persevere, not unlike the book's lovably snooty protagonist, under the heavy burden of several tons of bad writing): "an intelligent, wholly original novel about a young man struggling to survive (literally!) in the cut-throat world of new york city book publishing, THE FROG KING is adam davies' flashy debut. a former creative writing professor at the university of georgia, davies has crafted a modern coming-of-age tale that manages to be at least as emotionally profound as it is hilarious. harry, his peaks-and-valleys hero, is complex and tragic, but also fiendishly witty and ultimately compassionate. as an editor at a prestigious publishing firm, his supreme enemy is the literary cliche, but what happens when he discovers that it is he himself who has become the biggest, most despicable cliche of them all?"
ok, now onto other things, such as comparisons (no book review, however brief and glowing, is complete without them): the three books that come to mind when i think about THE FROG KING are michael chabon's MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH (which is less affecting, less honest), jay mcinerney's BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY (which is less exciting, less funny), and gaitskill's TWO GIRLS, FAT AND THIN (which is less consistent, less engaging). all of these books are masterpieces in my mind, and all of them certainly have their strong suits. but now they've got a new roommate, a scampy rascal with a big fat heart and an even bigger and fatter vocabulary.
so: buy this book and tickle your humanity. the end.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert Wellen on September 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
Davies first novel is an excellent novel. Jennifer Belle has called it "totally orignal" which is not exactly true, but does have some original moments and characters. You can't help but fall in love with Evie and her extraordinary patience. Harry is hard to love, but somehow you cheer for him. At times he reminded of Rob from High Fidelity (all arrested development and commitment phobic). Nevertheless, our American boy does ok. There are things that Harry goes through that many of us who are single and 28 (or there abouts) and live in the big city go through. He captures, with wonderful and painful truth, the awful feelings of losing someone you love. And the moral of this non-fairy tale fairy tale: To love someone, you must love yourself is not new--but told with humor and heart. The ending was a bit surpising, but not at all disappointing. I read most the book in one day. I enjoyed it. Davies writes very well and he clearly loves language. Was Judith based on Judith Reagan I wonder? I still have some questions, but overall I'd recommend this fine debut. Harry is something of hairball, but to some he may become a hero.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Leslie F. Miller on February 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
I collect frogs. So when I saw signed copies of this book left by the author in a bookstore, I had to buy one. It sat on the shelf for a loooong time. Now I'm sorry I didn't read it sooner. I'd have had a much bigger vocabulary much earlier!
Harry Driscoll is a bad boyfriend. He has no money. He smells. He has funky rashes. He drinks too much. He has lost his sense of compassion. And, although he loves his girlfriend, Evie, he refuses to say the words. Eventually, he loses her, and, frankly, you'll be glad. After all, how can you respect Evie if she stays?
Harry makes some changes in his life in order to win back the girl of his dreams. Does it work? I won't tell, but you'll be surprised and even pleased with the outcome.
For me, this book was a delightful education. See, Harry Driscoll reads the dictionary, and, because he does, the novel is full of delicious words you'd never dreamed existed--words for things you'd never dreamed existed!
I can't wait for Adam Davies' next book. Meanwhile, I'll be practicing omphaloskepsis.
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