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The Autograph Man

3.16  ·  Rating details ·  11,621 ratings  ·  821 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 347 pages
Published June 17th 2003 by Vintage (first published September 12th 2002)
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Rebecca Beautiful prose ~ less than a third of the way in and it has already had me in tears via the beauty of the prose.

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Average rating 3.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,621 ratings  ·  821 reviews

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B the BookAddict
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  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 anothe
Dec 31, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
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
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. ...more
Jan Rice
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Unlike seemingly everybody else, I didn't think White Teeth was wonderful. As I remember from around the early 2000s, it was okay, and maybe something was wrong with the way it ended. Very little has stuck with me. And therefore I didn't hop aboard the Zadie Smith bandwagon.

Fast forward to last year, when I asked my daughter-in-law what gift she wanted and she said she'd like the Zadie Smith books she hadn't read.

I warned her what I was reading about The Autograph Man, but never mind, she wanted
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
Brady Dale
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not Zadie Smith at her finest - but nonetheless a very accomplished, intriguing and of course brilliantly written novel as well as an interesting insight into the bizarre world of celebrity obsession and autograph trading.
Oct 15, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book gives the international gesture of 1 finger down your throat.
Appalling, I deserve a medal or an insanity check for finishing this.
Read By RodKelly
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Every Zadie Smith novel I've read (all of them) have been good, mostly great actually, but I think this one is the hardest to crack. The way her brain works is incredible: how she settled on a story about a Chinese-Jewish autograph connoisseur is mind boggling, but it made for a story that was at times funny, tender, and introspective.

I feel like this novel starts to scratch the surface of the techniques that were on brilliant display in NW, which is my favorite of hers. It's not a straightforw
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it

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
Abbie | ab_reads
If you’re looking to read some Zadie Smith then I’d recommend you steer clear of this one... It pains me to say it, as Smith’s other four novels are all absolute delights, but unfortunately I found this one very tedious - But you can all rest assured that I recommend White Teeth, Swing Time, On Beauty and NW heartily!
Usually Smith’s novels are bursting with life and vibrancy, there’s a great sprawling cast of characters and she turns her sharp eye to dissecting society... in The Autograph Man,
Geordie Peacock
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
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.
Mar 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 06, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: heard-books, fiction
I hated the main character and didn't understand his choices. I found it really hard to concentrate on what was going on (admittedly I was listening to the book over one drive and in short chunks) and found I didn't care, which can't be good. Towards the latter half of the book, I kept wanting it to speed up and end already! There is one brief section I did like towards the beginning of the novel, narrated from the point of view of the Alex's father. But it's a very short section in comparison t ...more
Nate D
Sep 22, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain
A thoroughly modern fable that seems to be about the over-identification with symbols, from the marks of Kabbalah to the titular autographs. It's brisker and more playful than White Teeth (which was plenty playful) but also lacks its human scope. It also suffers from a frequent Zadie Smith problem I have; she seems decidedly more capable of sympathy for her characters than I am. Note to self: reading about alcoholics is annoying if you want to care about their decisions at all. ...more
Sherrie Miranda
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.0 out of 5 stars
All Things considered, I Liked the Story
By Sherrie Miranda on April 13, 2018
Format: Paperback
As a reader of Black & Latino authors, I bought Zadie Smith's book in part because she is a black Brit. I thought I would learn something about life as a black, British female in London. The main character is a Chinese Jew and there are several other characters in the story, but the one black Brit is talked about a few times & gets about two minutes in an actual scene. There is even a b
Aug 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Ian Mapp
Mar 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have struggled with Zadie Smith in the past but found that it was well worth persevering. Not in this case. The Autograph Man has been described as "wonderfully funny" and "witty". While there are certainly many attempts at humour, I did not find the usually drunken or doped meanderings of Alex Li Tandem appealing to my sense of humour. The most moving part of the book was the description of Alex's father's death, which appears to be the instigation of Alex's career as an autograph man. His ob ...more
Mar 11, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Sometimes, an overload of random losers being pointlessly pathetic just wears you out.

(Don't get me wrong: Zadie Smith is brilliant, but, boy, this is one half-assed book.)
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Zadie Smith is an author whose books I admire, rather than like. Her way of capturing dialogue is unique. Her plots are deceptively complex and her characters are memorable. Yet I always feel that something is lacking. Once again I felt this with The Autograph Man.

British/Asian Alex Li Tandem collects autographs, deals them and assesses them. he also is a self destructive character who cannot get over the death of his father. Although he does have friends, they are patient with him every time Al
Ron Charles
Dec 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Book reviewing is ordinarily an honorable process, like say, college admissions, in which righteous judgment flows from disinterested appraisal of a subject's merit. There are, of course, minor abuses now and then. Last year, for instance, Christopher Buckley wrote a dust-jacket blurb for "The Columnist" and then followed up with a gushing review in the Washington Monthly.

But by and large, the profession remains committed to appearing devoted to the principle that each book should be judged acc
Aug 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Judith Hannan
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed White Teeth, so expectations were high for this one. But the Autograph Man is nothing like White Teeth. Sure Zadie Smith's impressive writing style is still there, thank god, but though the plot sounded interesting, I think the book still needed a bit more time to really pull it off. I much preferred the second part to the first but not enough to say that I would read it again or recommend it. It's ok, but there's better out there. ...more
Ayelet Waldman
I let this book's bad reviews sway me and didn't read it until now. I thought it was great and I'm ashamed of myself. ...more
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Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW, and Swing Time, as well as two collections of essays, Changing My Mind and Feel Free. 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 Ta ...more

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