The Autograph Man

The Autograph Man

3.13 (9,221 ratings by Goodreads)
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The Autograph Man is Zadie Smith's whirlwind tour of celebrity and our fame-obsessed times. Following one Alex-Li Tandem - a twenty-something, Chinese-Jewish autograph dealer turned on by sex, drugs and organised religion - it takes in London and New York, love and death, fathers and sons, as Alex tries to discover how a piece of paper can bring him closer to his heart's desire. Exposing our misconceptions about our idols - about ourselves - Zadie Smith delivers a brilliant, unforgettable tale about who we are and what we really want to be. 'A glorious concoction written by our most beguiling and original prose-wizard' Independent on Sunday 'A brilliant comedy with a tantalising throb of mystic philosophy underneath' Philip Hensher, Books of the Year, Spectator 'A pleasure from the first page to the last' Evening Standard 'Intellectually agile ...ecstatic inventiveness' Time 'A classic' Spectator 'Genuinely funny and entertaining' Guardian 'Vibrant, highly imaginative' Jewish Chronicle 'Full of irony, humour, the search for love and the fear of death ...a touching, thoughtful, deeply felt rite-of-passage novel' Sunday Telegraphshow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 432 pages
  • 128 x 192 x 32mm | 322.06g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New ed.
  • line illustrations
  • 0140276343
  • 9780140276343
  • 76,940

Flap copy

Alex-Li Tandem sells autographs. 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 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 trappings of modernity: celebrity, cinema, and the ugly triumph of symbol over experience. It offers further proof that Zadie Smith is one of the most staggeringly talented writers of her generation."show more

Review quote

"Intelligent. . . . exquisitely clever. . . . an ironic commentary about fame, mortality, and the triumph of image over reality." --"The Boston Globe ""The same bracing intelligence and salty humor that distinguished her debut. . . . Smith scatters marvelous sentences and sharp insights on nearly every page." --"LA Times" "A lovely surprise. Zadie Smith . . . has come out with a second book that is actually "better" than its predecessor: its dialog funnier, its language even more plugged in, more wired." --"Esquire ""A preternaturally gifted . . . writer [with] a voice that's street-smart and learned, sassy and philosophical all at the same time." -"The New York Times""Savvy, witty and exuberant." -New York "Daily News""Smith is young and smart, and . . . she proves to be an amazingly gifted writer." -"Washington Post Book World" "Smith writes sharp dialogue for every age and race-and she's funny as hell." -"Newsweek" "[Zadie Smith] possesses a more than ordinary share of talent." -"USA Today""Absolutely delightful." -Alan Cheuse, "Chicago Tribune" "Smith's clever, aphoristic observations and snappy dialogue are so delightful they tend to become addictive. . . . [The Autograph Man is] always entertaining." -"Elle"show more

Review Text

After the success of the dazzling White Teeth, Zadie Smith's second novel is an altogether more sober book. Alex-Li Tandem is Chinese Jewish and fascinated by the flotsam of 21st century life. He's a man in search of something to believe in - his dead father, the Jewish Yaweh, or the obscure silent-screen actress Kitty Alexander. The fragments that shore him up against his ruin are autographs, for Alex-Li searches out and sells the signatures of the famous. Did you know that a Greta Garbo is worth oodles more than a Ginger Rogers? And the most wanted autograph of them all, for Alex-Li, is a Kitty Alexander. So, when a mystery postcard turns up on his doorstep with the signature of his goddess he zips off to New York to solve the puzzle. Smith is as clever as a Cambridge graduate can be. She has to tell us everything she knows about wrestling, Jewish jokes, the autograph business and the Kaballah. She follows her characters around commenting on their thoughts and actions, not so much an omniscient narrator as a bossy big sister. It's lucky she has an ear for the quirky turn of phrase and an eye for comedy. She also seems to have the other eye glued to the American market. The plot is pure Hollywood - from a dingy London suburb to sparkling New York, with plenty of kooky Jewish characters, Chinese mysticism, a girlfriend with a dodgy ticker and a whore with a heart of gold. It's a great book, and it will make an excellent film. Lucy English is the author of Our Dancing Days (Kirkus UK)show more

About Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW and Swing Time, as well as The Embassy of Cambodia and a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. She is also the editor of The Book of Other People. Zadie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. White Teeth won multiple literary awards including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award. On Beauty was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and NW was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Zadie Smith is currently a tenured professor of fiction at New York University and lives in London and New York with her husband and two more

Rating details

9,221 ratings
3.13 out of 5 stars
5 8% (757)
4 26% (2,432)
3 41% (3,791)
2 19% (1,773)
1 5% (468)
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