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The Autograph Man

Narrated by: Ben Barnes
Length: 12 hrs and 2 mins
Categories: Fiction, Humor
4 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

We live in a world of signs.
But not everybody has to trade in them....

Alex-Li Tandem sells autographs. A small blip in a huge worldwide network of desire, 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 reinstatement of some kind of all-powerful, benevolent God-type figure, the end of religion, something for his headache, three different girls, infinite grace, and the rare autograph of '40s movie actress Kitty Alexander. With fries.

The Autograph Man is a deeply funny existential tour around the hollow things of modernity: celebrity, cinema, and the ugly triumph of symbol over experience. Through London and then New York, searching for the only autograph that has ever mattered to him, Alex follows the paper trail while resisting the mystical lure of Kabbalah and Zen, and avoiding all collectors, con men, and interfering rabbis who would put themselves in his path. Pushing against the tide of his generation, Alex-Li is on his way to finding enlightenment, otherwise known as some part of himself that cannot be signed, celebrated, or sold.

Cover title lettering by Leanne Shapton.

©2003 Zadie Smith (P)2018 Random House Audio

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Maybe it's ...me? (But I don't think it's me.)

Can't remember the last time my apathy towards a protagonist teetered on actual contempt. This was a tedious listen for me, salvaged only by Ben Barnes gifting the story an energy it didn't deserve. He's rocky to start but soon finds his comfort zone, giving each character their own voice and doing the best he can with the source material. It took a good eight hours for the book to get interesting, and that plot line is painfully short-lived. I basically only managed to finish the listen out of spite for having spent a credit on it.

Zadie Smith seems to be quite highly regarded as an author, but I was unfamiliar with her work and this was not the best first impression. There are a few gems as far as turns-of-phrase go; there was, I think, one line in the whole text that got an honest laugh out of me. Those highlights, however, were too few and far between.

Then again, I don't claim to be some great intellect, so maybe the whole thing was lost on me. I am a natural pragmatist; I have an odd sense of humour; I've read some really cerebral/artsy/dark/weird stuff in my time. I tend to gravitate more towards books that want to be appreciated; this thing is so je-ne-sais-quoi that I'm not sure it actually expects anyone to finish it, let alone come out the other side with anything other than indifference and a wish for their time back.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tep
  • USA
  • 05-14-18

Hooked! Great narration!

I've never listened to an audio book before so it was all new to me. I started to get used to being read to. I LOVED Ben Barnes's narration. He did all the voices and really got me invested in the story. Very pleased --Tep

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

I Wanted to Choke the Protagonist

I enjoyed Zadie Smith’s writing style and her focus on fame, race and religion. Ben Barnes’ performance captured the characters and tone of the story perfectly. It does start off slow but it’s a necessary slow build. I really loathed the protagonist, Alex-Li, at several points, which propelled me throughout the story. I loved how the storyline played with my feelings.
Overall, I enjoyed the audiobook. 😊