The Autograph Man is Alex-Li Tandem, son of a Chinese doctor and a Jewish mother (and therefore half-Jewish. His dad takes him and his mates, Adam and Rubinfline to a wrestling match between Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks; at the match his dad dies of brain cancer.
The main part of the book tells of a week in Alex-Li's life. It starts after a three day blank out following an acid trip; it follows him to autograph auctions and through boozy lunches; he travels to New York to meet Kitty Alexander, the old film actress he worships; he returns to London.
He spends an awful lot of the book drunk or hungover or on drugs or wasted. This became tedious. The rest of the time he is meditating on the meaning of life from a Chinese-Jewish standpoint. This also became tedious. I think the main problem was that I couldn't really like him: he was a self-indulgent waste of space. The book is essentially a drunkard's excuse for his drunkenness and we have all been cornered in a bar by some sot who wants to justify himself and explain the meaning of the world.
There are some enjoyable flashes of humour. "How did you find New York?" asks one character; "The pilot knew the way" is the reply. A couple of characters sparkle. There was one moment when one character posed a dilemma that sounded real rather than spoilt: what should your response be when you discover that someone has loved you unrequited for fifteen years; should you not let them love you? But basically I couldn't see the point of the book.
I preferred Zadie Smith's White Teeth and her wonderful NW. Swing Time is excellent as well.
March 2009, 419 pages
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57