Hello, I am officially done with BOOK #50!! Halfway there and well over halfway through the year, but I’m okay with that and I have faith that I can still reach 100 books this year. I do my best reading in the winter, anyway.
The book was actually not as great as I was expecting it to be, so that was something of a let down. I read The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith. Before this, I had read White Teeth, On Beauty, and NW by her, and I loved them all. The Autograph Man was Smith’s second novel, and definitely fit that sophomore slump novel trend.
The Autograph Man is a pretty self-explanatory title; the main character was named Alex-Li, and he collected, traded, and sold autographs for a living. The book begins with a scene from Alex’s younger years, and ends up being the life-altering day that Alex’s father dies following a wrestling match.
The story then goes on, narrated by Alex several years later. He’s kind of disillusioned by all of life in general, and is overtaken by this all-consuming obsession with an autograph that apparently just appeared during an acid trip from a once-famous Russian actress, Kitty Alexander. But he kind of disregards his friends and girlfriends while this obsession is taking over his life.
Through a series of very unlikely events, he ends up meeting Kitty’s agent and happening upon the actresses home in Brooklyn. A lot of relatively unrealistic and aimless things happen, and the book ends.
That’s a very negative synopsis, especially for me. You may have noticed, but I rarely dislike books and I hate to say that they’re just all bad without also mentioning some redeeming qualities. But this one just didn’t do it for me. It felt aimless, nothing too huge or revelatory was happening, and it didn’t really bring any new light to death, denial, or suffering like Smith’s other novels have.
That’s why I think it’s especially disappointing, because I think all of her other novels are incredible. I would say she’s one of my favorite authors, and she has such a strong voice and a great command of storytelling usually. That just wasn’t the case here, in my opinion.
I will say that her great writing did come trough in this novel, though, even if the story and characters may have been lacking. So at least she still had that going for her. Some of the back-cover praise for this book mentions the importance of how we view celebrity, but I just didn’t find much of that type of meaning in this book.
So, Zadie Smith is still Zadie Smith (read: an incredible author), this was just not my favorite. Oh, I also found two pretty major typos in this novel. It’s almost like the copyeditors and proofreaders sort of gave up on it, too.
Regardless: 50 down, 50 to go! Wish me luck in these next 3 months and 9 days. ◊
‘People don’t tell the truth. As if we pass easily from one to another. Youth to age. No—it is not true, one is yanked. And the fear, this they lie about too. I can’t sleep for thinking that it is all almost finished. My life. And I will go alone.'”
– page 256