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Autograph Man Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: RANDOM HOUSE
  • ASIN: B000UZ8YCQ
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Zadie Smith was born in North West London in 1975 and continues to live in the area. She is currently working on a second novel.

Customer Reviews

Alex-Li, as a character, is not very sympathetic.
Damian Kelleher
I've never read or heard an interview with her, and don't really know anything about her.
A. Ross
Just a very flat ending for, as it turns out, a very flat book.
Kelly Langston-Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 68 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Many reviewers have written about Zadie Smith's second novel in relation to White Teeth, and seem to come at it with a lot of baggage as a result. Let me just state for the record that I don't have a horse running in the Zadie Smith stakes. I've never read or heard an interview with her, and don't really know anything about her. I read "White Teeth" and mostly enjoyed it, but didn't think it was as brilliant as many others did. I approached this book as a blank slate, without knowing anything about it.
It's not good. In fact, it's pretty bad. If you wanted a textbook example of the literary sophomore slump, here it is. The story concerns Alex-Li Tandem, a half-Chinese, half-Jewish (Tandem... get it?) dealer in autographs. The main plotline concerns his obsession with the fictitious old film star Kitty Alexander and with obtaining one of her ultra-rare autographs. The central theme, however, concerns Alex's inability to ever deal with the sudden death of his father. This death occurs in the excellent prologue, which forms the first tenth of the book and is really the only part worth reading. Covering Alex's childhood visit to a wrestling match at Albert Hall, complete with interesting digression into the venue's history, this section would have made an excellent standalone short story.
Alas, it is followed by 300+ pages of muddled prose populated by characters that are dreadfully flat and uninteresting. Alex is whiny loser, who is unable to connect with the people around him, seeking solace in the bottle, or in his obsession for autographs.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Stefan Simmons on June 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
On this my third attempt at reading this book, I still can't seem to get pass the lifelessness of the main character. Every attempt to read this book has been painful and each time I have given up.
I have decided to sell it to a bargain book shop in the hope that someone can appreciate it more than I have.
After loving her first book, I was deeply hurt by this one. Nothing, absolutely nothing motivated me to continue reading this book and I have finished some real doorstops in my time.
Sorry Zadie but I just didn't like it at all.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By schapmock on October 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
Zadie Smith is such a terrific writer that one isn't immediately aware of how dire her second novel quickly becomes. The sentences still glimmer, but slowy the wit begins to curdle, and eventually turning the pages becomes a struggle.
The opening is spectacular, a superlatively funny and sad miniature that taken as short story far outshines the long novel that follows -- exactly the sort of leap forward one might hope for from the author of White Teeth.
Unfortunately, then comes the rest of the book, focused on Alex-Li, a boy in the prologue, now an aimless young man. The novel seems to intend itself as a comedy of self-loathing: Alex and his friends are cinema-addled, emotionally stunted boy-men incapable of separating media fiction from reality, of connecting to flesh and blood women. While not particularly original, this is a vein that's been successfully mined for decades, and there's plenty of peculiar color in the worlds of autograph men and multicultural British Judaism.
The problem, finally, seems to be that the author identifies not with Alex, but with the put-upon (and predominantly off-stage) women in his life. So the tone is not one of self-loathing, but just, well, loathing. The hectoring feel of the narrative collapses our sympathy for Alex. He's presented as a big loser, no more no less. Eventually we cease to care about him, and all the jokes in the world can't help that.
By it's end, the novel disintegrates into pure, frantic farce -- a big disappointment from such a distinctive writer -- but it won't stop me from reading the next one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Fairweatherassult on August 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is the first Zadie Smith novel that I've read; and that may be unfortunate, as I'm not really in the mood to try another. Surely this is not her finest -- but the overall effect was so muddled, that I'd rather try something else.

The narrative framework of this novel appropriates philosophical systems from two traditions. The first half of the novel adopts the Kabbalistic tree of life, its ten sefirot or spheres. In case the too-obvious symbolism doesn't make an impact on you, Smith makes its patently simple by naming each chapter after each sefirah. If even that's too difficult, Smith provides several Kabbalistic diagrams, which look like they were photocopied from Madonna's notebook. Believe me, Smith's knowledge of Jewish philosophy is about as deep as the red-strings those Hollywood stars wear around their wrists.

The second half of the novel (highlighting the main character's Chineseness) derive its titles from the 'Riding the Bull' sketches, made famous in the west by beatnik Buddhists in the sixties. Following the same old mistake that Buddhism and 'Zen' are synonymous, our Chinese hero (who strangely uses Japanese vocabulary to discuss religion) learns to transcend self, with a lot of slapstick along the way.

The split-framework is intended to highlight the divided heritage of the Chinese-Jewish main character, whose hybrid background allows for endless quips and innuendoes about purity and providence in determining one's political/racial identity. On this theme, Smith is glib rather than insightful.
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