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The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith

The Autograph Man (2002)

by Zadie Smith

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,642353,509 (3.1)1 / 80
Alex-Li Tandem is a 27-year-old, half-Jewish, helf-Chinese man in search of himself. In his own words, he has "no love, no transportation, no ambitions, no faith," and not much else. An autograph peddler, he hunts down the signatures people want and sells them. He even fakes them if that's what it takes. But what about his own needs? The list is long, but the two most important things are the love of a good woman and the rare autograph of an obscure actress.… (more)



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Jewish Chinese Londoner Alex-Li Tandem buys and sells autographs. It's infrequent work, but he has managed to build enough of a reputation to be able to live off of it rather comfortably. It is also a convenient way to keep an eye on anything by Kitty Alexander, a long and almost entirely forgotten actress who has barely signed anything ever. Alex-Li has been sending her a letter every week, in the hopes of getting another signature or just a sign of life. When the hoped for reply arrives, Alex-Li's quest only starts.

The Autograph Man did not work for me. It's nicely written, but it suffers from an absolutely unlikeable protagonist and I was also weirded out by how Alex-Li's Jewishness is treated. It was mostly my own hard-headedness that made me finish it at all.

Read more on my blog: https://kalafudra.com/2018/09/09/the-autograph-man-zadie-smith/ ( )
  kalafudra | Jun 2, 2019 |
The reviews are true: this is not her best
  HeatherWhitney | Apr 25, 2019 |
I wanted to like this unusual story since there is good writing in there. But I couldn't. It has a prologue, which I usually hate, and I hate them more when they are too long. Shades of things to come. It got tedious because it's overstuffed with detail and scenes just go on too long. It's quirky, but not interesting and I didn't get attached to any of the characters to wade though all the minutiae.
  Bookmarque | Feb 9, 2019 |
much of the book was a genius evisceration of celebrity culture: the characters were all fully-fledged and interesting and played against a madcap and genuinely funny plot. however, at times it felt that smith did not trust the reader enough to keep track of her themes and so absolutely beat us over the head with certain motifs. ("the world is broken"/things being broken comes to mind - though i've come away from the autograph man with a deeper appreciation of kabbalah, i think that was solidified by about the second instance of "the world is broken".) conversely, some themes were underdeveloped - i was always expecting male friendship to come to a more satisfying conclusion, even if it only were to explore the homoeroticism of it, which was always bubbling around in the novel. if it weren't for this uneven pressure applied to the themes and motifs, this would definitely be a 5/5 read. ( )
  livingtoast | Jan 23, 2019 |
Gave up at page 133. This is beautifully written, but it is aimless and boring and there are no female characters.
  pgchuis | Aug 30, 2017 |
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Ms. Smith's latest novel, ''The Autograph Man,'' is similarly ambitious -- in this case tackling such sprawling themes as the consequences of fame, the hunger for religious faith, the tension between the symbolic and the mundane -- but it's a flat-footed, grudging performance. Dour where ''White Teeth'' was exuberant; abstract and pompous where ''White Teeth'' was brightly satiric; tight and preachy where ''White Teeth'' was expansive.
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Naturally things cannot in reality fit together the way the
evidence does in my letter; life is more than a Chines puzzle.

- Franz Kafka, Letter to His Father
I would always make believe that Clark Gable was my father.

- Marilyn Monroe
To my amazing brothers Ben and Luke,
And for my friend Adam Andrusier, who knows funny
First words
He has the ability to imagine himself a minor incident in the lives of others.
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Average: (3.1)
0.5 2
1 19
1.5 6
2 92
2.5 21
3 196
3.5 39
4 99
4.5 7
5 38

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140276343, 0143566512

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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