Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith

The Autograph Man was my Kewaunee Library Book Club summer pick. Marc Blatte, author of Humpty Dumpty was Pushed picked the book for us when we had a discussion with him during our May book club meeting.

The Autograph Man is the story of Alex-Li Tandem, a small time autograph collector and seller in London. Alex has one autograph that he would love to have, a rare autograph from his favorite actress Kitty Alexander. After a drug fueled evening, he is found to have a Kitty autograph. Did he forge it, or did Kitty actually send him one after fifteen years? Alex journeys to New York to a convention and to find Kitty and discover the answer.

While this is the outer story, the inner story is that Alex-Li’s father died of a heart attack while he had taken Alex and two of his friend to a wrestling match. Alex-Li is Jewish and has never been able to put his father to rest at a kaddish. Through the help of his friends, Alex makes his spiritual journey and learns how to let go.

My feelings on this novel are quite complex. I LOVED Smith’s style of writing and thought it was a very well written book. I also loved how the plot was really tied together in the end. But I didn’t really like the story. I didn’t care much for Alex-Li and he spent a lot of the book in a drug fueled haze, which was annoying.

My book club had mixed feelings. Two members didn’t finish it and one liked the end, but wasn’t sure if he would read any more novels by Zadie Smith. I loved her style of writing and have heard lots of good things about White Teeth and On Beauty. What do you think - worth a read?


  1. I haven't read this book but it sounds as if you loved the writing but not the story. Interesting. Why did you love the writing? Does it help you with your own writing, or did you just find it engaging?

  2. I thought the writing was very engaging. I was drawn in despite my not liking the storyline. Also some of her sentences were beautifully composed.

  3. I've not read her either, but have also heard good things about White Teeth. If you like her style of writing maybe you'd like it.