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.?Look for her new book Swing Time , coming November 2016.
After the sheer brilliance of "White Teeth", possibly nothing Smith could have written would have matched up- yet, Autograph Man gives you the impression that she didn't even try.
Well, this is my book.
Was rather, it depicts a segment of my life almost biographically.
It's a fun read, as Zadie Smith writes so beautifully about the most unlikely things. A white Jew, a black Jew and a Chinese Jew go to a wrestling match... and it's not a joke, it's a morality tale. Perhaps not quite up to the standard of White Teeth, but worthwhile anyway.
I started with a certain empathy for Alex as he was forced to do things that neither he nor his family wanted by a dominating partner (been there, got the tee-shirt!) but, as the book progresses, it becomes more and more like a poor British re-write of one of those cosy American sit coms of which Channel Four seem so proud. The problem is, I suspect, that this book falls so neatly amidships of British and American humour that it sinks into the depths of the Atlantic - perhaps that is why the humour is 'deep'!
Not a book that I shall recommend to my friends.
The book comes with some kabbalistic chart, which I could not make sense of, not before, nor while or even after reading. Perhaps it is a kind of postmodern distractor, who knows.
Naturally, I was sympathetic to the book opening with a main character of Chinese descent, but, as so often happens the name and background seems too contrived: a English - Chinese Jew, named Alex-Li Tandem. I was willing to go along, but basically, if an author cannot come up with a reasonably acceptable name for the (main) character(s), I must say I soon start losing interest. I never really discovered what the book is about, there does not seem to be a plot or story to follow. I suppose the postmodern author will scowl at me for that.
The only way to get through this book was by skimming. I doubt I missed much.
I wanted to like this unusual story since there is good writing in there. But I couldn't. It has a prologue, which I usually hate, and I hate them more when they are too long. Shades of things to come. It got tedious because it's overstuffed with detail and scenes just go on too long. It's quirky, but not interesting and I didn't get attached to any of the characters to wade though all the minutiae.
The plot was interesting, but split in several places. This isn't necessarily a good thing, but in the end it left a few ends not quite finished. I found that I wasn't at all pleased with the ending relating the main character and the movie star he idolizes throughout the book. I felt there should have been more of a conclusion there than what exists.
I highly enjoyed the book and its descriptive nature, even with the small disappointments that popped in occasionally. It is easy to see why the book made the Orange Shortlist.