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The Autograph Man

3.12 of 5 stars 3.12  ·  rating details  ·  7,980 ratings  ·  551 reviews
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 fathe ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published September 26th 2002 by Hamish Hamilton Ltd (first published 2002)
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MJ Nicholls

James Wood in his thesis review covers all the thoughts I had on this one (and more and more) and is the most worthwhile review of this book around. For those who aren’t that interested, let me sum up the basics: lapsed Anglo-Chinese Jew Alex-Li is an autograph hunter fixated on Kitty Alexander, fictional Hollywood starlet of the 1950s. He spends his time writing a book on Jews v. Christians, spurning his faith, squabbling with rabbis, upsetting his bald girlfriend and cavorting
Barry Pierce
How can you possibly follow up White Teeth? Well you can't, but Smith gives us a very different but equally enjoyable novel. The plot of The Autograph Man is, shall we say, a bit more conventional than White Teeth. Smith's wonderful ability to capture speech in her prose is as admirable here as ever and importantly, it's funny! Sadly this novel has been relegated to the sidelines by all of her other novels but true Smith fans will read this and keep it as their dirty little secret.
What started out as a promising read quickly turned into a...really crappy one. I know this makes me sound somewhat like a whiny seventh grader when I say this, but god, this book was booooorring. I read the entire thing hoping that at some point it'd turn the corner and pick up the pace, but no, it just basically ground itself out into a completely anti-climactic ending. But before that we got pages and pages of...I don't even know what, I disliked this book so much that I immediately purged it ...more
I enjoyed Smith's writing style far more than I enjoyed the plot (which promised some things but delivered others) or the characters (who are neatly drawn, but on paper that is very thin indeed); but even the sometimes whimsical, sometimes nervy, sometimes delightful turns of her prose weren't enough to save The Autograph Man from being something of a disappointment. It's more mature in some ways than White Teeth, darker, and I would imagine in many ways a reflection on Smith's part on the fame ...more
B the BookAddict
Sep 06, 2014 B the BookAddict rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Go on, read it! it's worth it
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: pure chance!

One of those serendipitous moments for me: looking for another of Zadie Smith's books NW,, I chanced upon this one. What a find. It did take me a couple of pages to settle in with this story but I was hooked from then on. A novel about a young man, his friends and a few months in their lives shown deftly in the hilarious, droll, sometimes very serious but always brilliant words of Zadie Smith.

Alex-Li Tandem is half Chinese, is Jewish, has a black girlfriend, a best mate who's a Rabbi and another
Brady Dale
Nov 12, 2010 Brady Dale rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans and Brits in their late 20s and early 30s, unmarried people, collectors
One of the single most memorable books I've ever read and totally underappreciated. It's so good. It's about a young man totally at a loss in his life and he has to do a lot of stupid things to realize he actually has it all pretty good. She chooses a very funny little adventure and a very special character to help him get his head sorted.

It's hard for me to say why this book is so great. I think Smith just has a lot of talent but is often constrained by others expectations of her talent. I thin
She hopes for nothing except fine weather and a resolution. She wants to end properly, like a good sentence.

Zadie Smith has been on my list of authors to read for several years, but I'd only heard of her more well-known novels, White Teeth and On Beauty. I found The Autograph Man on a bookshelf in the teacher's lounge at my school and immediately picked it up.

The story was difficult to get into at first, as the main character, Alex Li-Tandem, didn't start off being too sympathetic or relatable.
From The Book Hooligan

“All fandom is a form of tunnel vision: warm and dark and infinite in one direction.” - The Narrator

There is nothing more treacherous than fame. At one point, it is an asset then, at the next, it is a liability. This is because nobody is the master of fame and everyone, even the Brad Pitts and the Angelina Jolies of the world will fade into obscurity. The only people who can profit and prosper from fame are those from the outside of fame, those that make the fame of others
Geordie Peacock
I'd delayed reading this book for many years because of the mediocre reviews but there it was: a lone English novel, in a Spanish book shop, so I decided to take the plunge. Plus I had just finished rereading On Beauty, which is enjoyable and insightful, and works so well as an updated Howard's End.
Unfortunately the reviews were right. This feels like it was difficult to write; you can sense the sections where Smith must have thrown up her hands in despair. It makes several clunky attempts to of

My first acquaintance with Zadie Smith's work, The Autograph Man has left me convinced of her far-reaching talent. While this book has plenty of flaws, Ms. Smith's story-telling exuberance (for me) wins out and makes my beefs with it seem picayune by comparison.

We follow Alex-Li Tandem, Chinese/English/confused Jew/young alkie/stoner/titular "Autograph Man" as he tries (mostly unsuccessfully) to get past the death of his father thirteen years prior. He's pretty much stuck in Schlub-land, gettin
Ian Mapp
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex-Li Tandem wakes up one morning to find that he owns something
he's been obsessed with for years: the autograph of 50's film icon
Kitty Alexander. If he hadn't been on some unusually potent drugs the
night before, he'd swear his dreams had come true. As it is, most of
his friends figure he's finally snapped and forged the priceless
memento himself. So begins "The Autograph Man", Zadie Smith's followup
to her blockbuster first novel "White Teeth".

Smith is a fan of classic British comedy, and
Karen J.
This book has performed a necessary feat--revived my love of literature and STORY post a 3-year, year-round, purely academic stint. An unmatched feeling (exclusive to the luxury of reading for pleasure) constantly arises: I read, I stare at a household object or tree and repeat the gifted string of words, thinking, how in the world did anyone know to write this? How did Smith know to wrap up the humour of philography, the elusiveness of fame, the over-the-top sanctity of religious belief, and th ...more
One of the problems with this book, is that it will inevitably be read with 'White Teeth' in mind, and unfortunately, it really doesn't compare. While it demonstrates Smith's tongue-in-cheek humour, it is incredibly slow to start, and the characters are such superficial creations, that it is often difficult to empathise with them. I agree with another reviewer who suggests that Smith seems to have packed too many ideas in here. This results in a novel which is not as satisfyingly complete as her ...more
Judith Hannan
I was trying to decide between four and five stars which is kind of ridiculous because Smith is an extraordinary writer. She takes the scenes and actions of everyday life and describes them with words I would never think of using but when I read them I think there is no other away to describe what she is talking about. She and her prose are whip smart. I thought I would finish the book in two days, but I got bogged down a bit in the characters. The plot and the message being delivered seemed to ...more
This book gives the international gesture of 1 finger down your throat.
Appalling, I deserve a medal or an insanity check for finishing this.
Zöe Yu
Tried several time, stopped at page 5...
Le lecteur goodreadsien moyen n'est pas particulièrement enthousiaste face à ce livre. C'était le deuxième roman de Zadie Smith, après White Teeth (qu'il faudrait vraiment que je relise), & on voit que le lectorat avait pas l'intention de lui en laisser passer une.

Je suis contente de ne pas l'avoir lu au moment de sa publication. Je suis contente de l'avoir découvert à tête reposée, loin des attentes qui pesaient sur sa pauvre petite reliure. C'est le dernier roman de Zadie Smith qu'il me r
This is the first Zadie Smith book I've read. I really enjoyed her style.

She uses very modern characters and deliberately chooses unique and sometimes surprising ethnic/social/economic groups to make them fresh and interesting - the main character is Alex-Li Tandem, a half-Chinese Jew who trades in autographs. Her characters all have a comic feel to them but she sketches them in a respectful way and they still seem (just about) believable.

She uses a lot of dialogue. She's not afraid to gently po
This book was hilarious. It was full of schtick: 3 rabbis always in the same spot, always trying to move a random piece of furniture; someone trying to "drink alphabetically" starting with absinthe but not making it past a Tia Maria; helping an old Russian actress escape to America, leading to a false report of her death.

Also lots of little sad moments: A deranged and depressing old autograph man, dying in the hospital receives a check for $15,000 he will never be able to cash -- " 'Signed by Al
Of all of Ms. Smith's books, "The Autograph Man," her second novel, garnered the most mixed reaction, which is why I read it last. I can certainly understand the disappointment for those critics and fans who awaited its arrival after her stunning debut, "White Teeth." Its tone, especially in the first half, is somber and claustrophobic, as the reader follows the protagonist, Alex Li-Tandem, through the aftermath of a drug-induced hangover as he prepares for the anniversary of his father's death. ...more
Diana Dams
After reading "White Teeth," I probably had unreasonably high expectations for "The Autograph Man." A book centered around the life of a man who hustles autographs, has myserious substance abuse problems, and an obsession with a timeless film icon - this book lacked the magic. I didn't care about the characters on the same deep level as in "White Teeth" - and their lives didn't intertwine in a meaningful way that I could appreciate. This novel seemed all over the place and even-sappy? I'm sure I ...more
not a flawless work of fiction (whatever that means) but i've got a soft spot for zadie smith.

the thing is, i have taken it upon myself to handle this thing called literature in a logical and thoroughly disciplined manner. this means i do not usually forray into the 21st century, not until i get my head around what shaped it.

but then come those moments when i need a breather from all the high brow genius and all the modern classics or, as i call it, 'books unsuitable for my daily commute'. s
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A loyal Zadie Smith fan and avid reader of her books made me skeptical about some of the harsher reactions to this one, yet sadly I have to admit I am equally disappointed and perhaps even offended at the quality of this work when we know she can do so much better. She doesn't seem to have put much thought in to this, and was instead rolling off the attention high from the praise for White Teeth. Smith's work is often unrefined which is something I love so much because you can really hear her vo ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about Zadie Smith's writing (didn't really enjoy all of NW or White Teeth), but I really liked The Autograph Man. It felt familiar and comforting, while being really interesting. I felt like some of the characters could have been fleshed out more (especially the female characters) but oh well. Overall, an enjoyable and quick read.
This book was about two hundred pages longer than it should have been.

The author meanders through the ghost of a plot, digressing at every opportunity and usually making little (or no) sense. Despite all the pages used up exploring Alex's thoughts on life and religion, his character still seems hollow. He makes mistakes, he occasionally regrets, he whines, he makes more mistakes and so goes the life of Alex-Li Tandem.

Hopefully, White Teeth will be better.
"Alex, like everybody, held hospitals in the hightest, purest dread and loathing. To come in with a bump and leave with the baby--this is the only grace available in a hospital. Other than that, there is only pain. The concentration of pain. Hospitals are unique in this concentration. There are no areas in the world dedicated to the concentration of pleasure (theme parks and their like are a concentration of the symbols of pleasure, not pleasure itself), there are no buildings dedicated to laugh ...more
Zadie Smith certainly has a way with characters and dialogue. Her characters live. (The only character I found a bit underdeveloped was Esther, but this may have been intentional as we only see her through Alex's thoughts and what others say to him for most of the book.)

The plot is inventive and, despite one early section, kept my interest throughout. I will certainly forgive the only one or two quirky areas where I thought some editing might've been good in order to have the exuberant, delibera
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Zadie Smith (born Sadie Smith October 27, 1975) is an English novelist. To date she has written four novels, and is widely regarded as one of England's most talented young authors; in 2003, she was included on Granta's list of 20 best young authors.

See also

More about Zadie Smith...
White Teeth On Beauty NW Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays The Book of Other People

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“She hopes for nothing except fine weather and a resolution. She wants to end properly, like a good sentence. ” 77 likes
“She loved you in the morning because the day was new.” 38 likes
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