The Autograph Man: A Novel

Smith, Zadie

Published by Random House, 2002
ISBN 10: 037550186X / ISBN 13: 9780375501869
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Signed. First Edition. First edition. Signed by the author. Review copy with publicity sheet laid in. Fine copy in fine dust jacket. Though not marked, from the collection of Mel Waggoner, host of the public radio program "Profiles" which interviewed authors. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: We live in a world of signs.
But not everybody has to trade in them....


Alex-Li Tandem sells autographs. A small blip in a huge worldwide network of desire, his business is to hunt for names on paper, collect them, sell them, and occasionally fake them—all to give the people what they want: a little piece of Fame. But what does Alex want? Only the return of his father, the reinstatement of some kind of all-powerful, benevolent God-type figure, the end of religion, something for his headache, three different girls, infinite grace, and the rare autograph of forties movie actress Kitty Alexander. With fries.

The Autograph Man is a deeply funny existential tour around the hollow things of modernity: celebrity, cinema, and the ugly triumph of symbol over experience. Through London and then New York, searching for the only autograph that has ever mattered to him, Alex follows the paper trail while resisting the mystical lure of Kabbalah and Zen, and avoiding all collectors, con men, and interfering rabbis who would put themselves in his path. Pushing against the tide of his generation, Alex-Li is on his way to finding enlightenment, otherwise known as some part of himself that cannot be signed, celebrated, or sold.

Review: When Alex-Li Tandem is 12 years old, his father takes him and his friends Adam and Rubinfine to a wrestling match at the Albert Hall in London. By the end of the evening, the pivotal events of Alex-Li's youth have occurred: he has met Joseph Klein, a boy whose fascination with autographs proves infectious; his friendships with Adam and Rubinfine are cemented; and his father has dropped dead. This is enough action for an entire book, and in fact things slow down dramatically after page 35 of Zadie Smith's sophomore novel The Autograph Man. When we meet Alex again, he is a grown man, an autograph dealer and devoted slacker, suffering the physical and spiritual after-effects of a three-day romance with a drug called "Superstar." While under its malign influence, Alex has managed to wreck his sports car, alienate his girlfriend Esther, and--possibly--forge the rare autograph of his idol, the 1950s movie star Kitty Alexander. Will his friends save him from the embarrassment of trying to sell this suspect autograph? Will they pull him together in time to perform Kaddish on the 15th anniversary of his father's death? Although not as enthralling or politically resonant as White Teeth, Smith's hallowed debut, The Autograph Man amply demonstrates her ability to juggle several main characters, several themes, and a host of plots and subplots, with the occasional purely comic episode thrown up in the air beside them like a chainsaw or a cheesecake. Readers will want to step away to a safe distance during the chaotic final scenes. --Regina Marler

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Autograph Man: A Novel
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Fine

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