Jeffrey Frank

Selected Works

Narrative History
“Perhaps the most intriguing—and dysfunctional—political marriage in history ... a highly engrossing political narrative that skillfully takes the reader through the twisted development of a strange relationship that would help shape America’s foreign and domestic agenda....” —Front Page, The New York Times Book Review
"One of the best books ever written about Richard Nixon"
--Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker
"[A] compelling and enlightening account of one of the most important and complicated political relationships in postwar U.S. history.... fascinating"
-- The Washington Post
Fiction
Another triumph from one of America’s most reliable and inventive comic novelists. Trudy Hopedale is understated, cunning and relentlessly funny.”
--David Sedaris
“Wickedly funny...”
--(Starred) Kirkus Review
"The Columnist is 'as dark as chocolate and every bit as tasty.'"
--Christopher Buckley
Translation
“The Franks’ edition finally sets the stories straight...”
--Elise Soukup, Newsweek

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Trudy Hopedale

"Trudy Hopedale...takes us “on a brief journey through a few months in the capital-city lives of two unreliable narrators…Each of these people has a few secrets that it wouldn't be proper to mention aloud -- whispering is so much better. They try to preserve their regal pretensions with self-important, exquisitely reserved interior monologues that are belied by failings they can't quite hide…
"Trudy Hopedale is a society novel that could take place at any time, though the Lewinsky circus makes undignified noises in the distance. The plot turns on the efforts of both Trudy and Donald to maintain their respective positions as each faces potential ruin from scandal. Describing such maneuverings, Mr. Frank can be as delicately lethal as Edith Wharton or Henry James. He constructs a tale of status reversals and lies avenged, leaving several major events to happen in a hush offstage as though it would be unseemly for us to witness them.
"Part of the novel's appeal is Mr. Frank's stealthy wit. He stands as stone-faced as a butler in the background while his characters feast on self-delusion. Trudy's husband, Roger, is an eminence grise who has written books like The Edge of American Power: The Paradox of Supremacy, which, as Mr. Frank drily puts it, "few took note of, probably because dozens of other books had roughly the same title." Roger inspires threats from an old spook, who thinks that Roger's latest book, an iridescently awful attempt at spy fiction, might contain classified information. Mr. Frank has great fun peeking at its actual contents ("Mitch nibbled the nubs of Tootsie's mottled nipples"). Roger boasts that the book is in the tradition of John Grisham -- and John Updike. "The two Johns," he says. "They're my chief influences."
"The names in the novel capture both Washington's stolid pomposity and its feral bloodlust. The spook is called Royal Arsine; a rapacious talk-radio host, Bucky Ravenschlag; a heavy-thighed reporter, Jennifer Pouch. Perhaps because of the planetary pull of Bill Clinton's scandals, sex seems to alter every orbit in Trudy Hopedale. Even Trudy's mother-in-law is now claiming that she bedded Harry Truman. It isn't long before Trudy herself, for all her affectation of a high-society upbringing, says to herself, contemplating a blackmail threat: "I'm not ashamed... of the few months I spent dancing at a bar in Detroit, where I took off some of my clothes, but not all of them, and definitely never the bottoms." It is comforting to know that, even in the Clinton era, some principles remained important. Or did they? As Trudy says of another Washington ideal: "Deep down, I really believe that. Or I think I do."
--Kyle Smith, The Wall Street Journal


"The 2000 presidential election “is but one of several elephants in the room in this frothily entertaining novel. The primary characters are so mightily self-absorbed that they hardly notice the political currents churning around them, at least until outlying ripples threaten their personal and social lives.
"Covering the period from spring 2000 to late summer 2001, the novel is narrated in the alternating voices of Donald Frizzé, a self-proclaimed vice-presidential historian, and the titular Trudy, a society wife and hostess of a local television talk show. Donald, whose reputation seems to be based mainly on his flowing locks and dreamy good looks, is struggling to write a biography of William McKinley's first vice president while also contending with a spurned <Washington Post reporter, accusations of plagiarism, rumors about his sexuality and an extremely suspicious-looking mosquito bite on his wrist.
"…Frank's writing is consistently funny, and he keeps the story moving along at a brisk clip. Much of the humor is that of polite understatement: "It looked like their conversation was not all that friendly," relates Trudy at one point, "not the way their arms were waving." Trudy's insensitivity can be morbidly hilarious: She obsesses over the guest list for a funeral and at a benefit for the "horrible rare disease we were all celebrating and raising money for," she focuses on who gets the prime seating assignments…
"...laughs in abundance. Furthermore, readers have the advantage of hindsight, of knowing what lies ahead, adding piquancy to moments such as the one in which Donald, who has a penchant for overlooked and inconsequential vice presidents, muses, "I'm thinking of writing a biography of Dick Cheney -- I'd be the first. What do you think?"
--Judy Budnitz, The Washington Post


"Jeffrey Frank is the master of the satiric novel of company-town Washington bad manners. He is the Peter de Vries of status anxiety, the Henry James of envy. He is the anti-Allen Drury. His books are the precise opposite of those overstuffed airport paperbacks with raised lettering and Presidential seals on the cover, the “towering bestsellers” that take you behind the scenes from the White House to the Pentagon to the storied halls of Congress, where the fate of a nation hangs in the balance and the passions and secrets of the most powerful men and women on earth blah blah thud. Jeffrey Frank’s characters—who are apt to be empty-souled columnists, half-forgotten ex-Congressmen hoping for a sub-Cabinet job, third-tier think tankers pining for a call from the cable-show bookers, fading Georgetown hostesses, and, deliciously (in Trudy Hopedale) a “Vice-Presidential historian”—are seldom more than one step ahead of the humiliation they generally deserve but are utterly baffled by. Frank’s command of the voices of his creations, who are often the (unreliable) narrators of their own follies, is awe-inspiring.
"These books are not about politics, by the way. They are about certain cringe-making and, sad to say, probably universal aspects of the human condition. These books are merciless. Liberals love them; conservatives love them; centrists love them. I love them.
--Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker


"Like Frank’s earlier Washington satires--The Columnist and Bad Publicity--Trudy Hopedale is a triumph….Frank, a genius of the understatement, treads that minuscule line between the tragic and comedic with clarity and ease…
Trudy Hopedale is at once devastating and hilarious, much in the vein of Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall and The Loved One. Nearly all of the seven deadly sins are here, covered with the thin Washington veneer accorded fleetingly and only to Trudy and Donald and their ilk."
--Karen Brady, The Buffalo News


“Jeffrey Frank expands his satirical chronicle of Washington in Trudy Hopedale, charting the decline of his eponymous heroine and a few other figures outside the halls of power in the year before Sept. 11, 2001.
“The catalysts of their decline are a lustful reporter named Jennifer Pouch and a nasty spook with the subtle name of Royal Arsine. But--as always in Frank's painful comedy-- they're really undone by their own character flaws.”
--Newsday


“A political romp….This is Washington, where the public memory is short, although the personal grudges are long. Trudy [is] ready to dust off her messy life and start fresh with the new administration…”
--Barbara Fisher, Boston Globe

"Gossip is the gasoline of this town”—so says Donald Frizzé, one of the two narrators in Jeffrey Frank’s Trudy Hopedale. He’s talking about Washington, D.C. in 2000 (with gas prices already on the rise), and he’s right: This story is soaking in it.
“Set in the northwest corner of the District at the end of the Clinton administration, Mr. Frank’s novel charts the dizzying movements of a small circle of would-be power players—the title character, a television personality; her husband, a semi-retired spook waiting for his next call to duty; and Frizzé, a Vice Presidential historian—as they reach for the next rung on the company-town ladder.
“Splitting the duties of narrator, Frizzé and Trudy Hopedale are both charming and bawdy, though neither one can be trusted to tell a straight story. While Trudy isn’t quite cut from the same cloth as a Pamela Harriman, she’s a decent knock-off, and anyone familiar with Washington women of a certain age will be charmed….
“Frank…plots his story as methodically as L’Enfant planned out Washington. Bits and pieces are told and retold, and information parceled out by our tag team of unreliable narrators, snippets of what each can bear to read of Roger’s novel, tidbits of conversation dripping in Pentagon doubletalk and WASPy innuendo.”
--Adam Rathe, New York Observer


“Jeffrey Frank writes savage novels about Washington, which is to say, savage novels about people addicted to and protective of their piece of power…
“In Frank's new novel, Trudy Hopedale is Washington's version of Barbara Walters, and her successful noontime talk show has become a stopping-off point for all the politicos and media types. …Trudy is a gabby type; one of the characters describes her husband gazing at her as if “she were an eccentric appliance and he had lost the off button.”…
“Trudy's husband, a retired spy, has surreptitiously written a novel called Desks of Power - the excerpts that Frank provides us with are subtly hilarious examples of bad thriller writing, with overly ripe sexual images and lurching similes: "Her breasts looked bolder, her hips wider, and her pink, plush parted lips fuller ... The knob on the closet door glimmered faintly, like a golden mushroom.” Beyond literary crimes, there is trouble in paradise. Trudy's ratings are falling, and the station wants to give her a younger, blonder co-host. The third act is clear to everybody but Trudy….”
--Scott Eyman, Palm Beach Post


“It's a typical Washington dinner party. The big questions: Is the hostess making it with the senator? Will the reporter bed the historian? And by the way--what about the presidential election?... Trudy's ill-judged affair with a U.S. senator emerges as a younger rival is edging her off the TV show. Donald's early plagiarism catches up with him as he fends off Jennifer Pouch, both physically and journalistically. And Roger's novel proves to be more revealing than Royal Arsine can abide…”
--Chicago Tribune


“Another Presidential-election season, another slew of satirical novels purporting to skewer the inside-the-Beltway milieu of Washington, D.C., a burg commonly referred to as “Hollywood for ugly people.” But where so many other send-ups of D.C. stumble over their own sense of outrage, in his Trudy Hopedale, author Jeffrey Frank never lets us forget that beneath the thin veneer of national politics is often a spirited dose of office politics. The policy squabbles may sound high-minded on the front page of The New York Times, but the pettiness, awkward sexual tensions and personal slights all elevated to internecine warfare are as familiar as the nearest cubicle. And just like any battle-hardened corporate drone, “Members of past administrations cling to Washington like rings on the inside of a tub,” muses Frank’s eponymous narrator. Of course, she may be taking aim at her own hubby, a fusty foreign-service vet best known for writing books “about the limits or the paradox or whatever it is of America’s power.” That’s about as much respect as Frank himself has for our nation’s elder statesmen, and his writing is all the more barbed—and laugh-out-loud funny—for it.
--Brett Sokol, Ocean Drive


“Frank, a former Washington journalist who is now an editor at the New Yorker, first took on the capital in The Columnist, a novel in the form of a memoir by a political pundit--a creature so full of himself that he's equally oblivious to the hurt he inflicts, the injuries he receives and the mediocrity of his work. As a sustained narrative by a cringe-inducing ass, The Columnist is a very funny tour de force.
Bad Publicity takes aim at lawyers, PR firms and think tanks in a busy, entertaining third-person narrative that shows how one lie told in the right place can upend marriages and careers, while myriad other lies keep the town rolling along. Focusing on the lower ranks of a PR company and the upper echelon of a powerful law firm, Frank has fun throwing barbs in every direction.
“With Trudy Hopedale, he returns to the first person, giving Trudy and her friend Donald alternating sections that provide comically different perspectives on the same events:…”
--Jeffrey Burke, Bloomberg News


“A major accomplishment”
—Booklist


"Plumbing Washington, D.C., archetypes is what Jeffrey Frank does best. From the safety of Manhattan, of course...
"They live tenuous--nearly paranoid--lives that rise and fall based on their proximity to those who run "this town." They are the sort of people who are privately gleeful whenever scandal fells yet another "dear friend," but are congenitally unable to come to terms with their own ethical lapses--large or small.
"It's a world encapsulated by feckless characters such as the supercilious, bow-tie-wearing scribe Brandon Sladder, star of Frank's 2001 fictional memoir The Columnist, who wrecks a remarkable string of lives in his relentless push for self-promotion. And it's the same world that can be brutally punishing to the formerly important as the ensemble cast of political has-beens in Bad Publicity, Frank's follow-up novel, discovers.
"…Set during the waning days of the Clinton administration and the early months of the current Bush White House...the novel practically pullulates with the pedestrian inanities of the pre-Sept. 11, 2001, chattering classes. (And yes, there are references to a "slimy congressman and his disappearing intern" and "shark attacks.")
"Frank…is at his best when he draws on his considerable powers of observation to deliver a pitch-perfect sendup of the ways and thinking of a certain element in the Washington caste system.
"And Trudy's Barbie-doll-style internal monologue is so un-self-consciously self- absorbed it makes you want to laugh out loud--probably because if you've patronized enough Washington events you've seen aspects of Trudy all over town.
"….The Hopedales' "essential" July Fourth barbecue was a place where "just about everyone shows up. Members of past administrations cling to Washington like rings on the inside of a tub, and in two or three hours, it is possible to move through several decades," Donald observes. At one point, a defense expert contemplates "taking up the oboe if" Al Gore wins the 2000 presidential election.

--Bree Hocking, Roll Call


“Frank skillfully casts Washington as his most powerful character. The setting is smoothly rendered as a place where the power brokers make the most of what they inevitably know is a small window of time in the spotlight. .... a funny look into the murky world of national politics and its media coverage during the transition between administrations… more preferable for many than the coming onslaught of presidential campaign propaganda.”

--Rocky Mountain News