I read White Teeth for a class last spring and absolutely fell in love with Zadie Smith’s writerly voice. Since she has only four novels out so far, I thought I might have a fair shot of getting to read all her books. So, I thought The Autograph Man would be a good place to go next.
The novel’s prologue begins with Li-Jin Tandem taking his son Alex and two other friends to a wrestling match, one that will set the tone for the next several years. There, Alex will meet Joseph Klein, an autograph collector, an occupation that he will take up when the novel continues, 13 years later. Li-Jin will not survive past the prologue, but his spectre will surround Alex, Adam, Joseph, and Mark Rubinfine. While the novel surrounds Alex’s quest to obtain an autograph from Kitty Alexander, the reclusive Russian-American movie star, it also focuses on Alex’s relationship to Judaism, his father’s religion and that of his friends (especially Adam and Rubinfine, who has become a rabbi).
This second book does not have quite the same energy that White Teeth does, but it manages to interconnect several demographics across contemporary England, nonetheless. If you’ve never read Zadie Smith, I highly recommend her, but you should start with White Teeth. I’m definitely going to read her other two works.