When twelve-year old Alex Li-Tandem meets Joseph Klein at a wrestling match in London, he couldn't have possibly predicted that their conversation about collecting autographs would change the course of his life. Alex grows up to be an Autograph Man, making a living buying and selling famous names, obsessively pursuing the very rare autograph of 1940s Hollywood movie star, Kitty Alexander.
But Alex's life is a shambles. He's wrecked his car during an acid trip, injuring (and alienating) his girlfriend Esther; his friends are mad at him; and he's still grieving over the death of his father, Li-Jin. His friends, Adam and Rabbi Rubenfine, want him to say the Kaddish for his father on the fifteenth anniversary of his death, but Alex sees that as nothing more than an empty gesture, a ritual he can't believe in. His girlfriend Esther wants him to grow up and stop being so selfish. But all Alex seems to want is the autograph of Kitty Alexander. He has written her hundreds of letters over the years, all of them unanswered. Until the fateful day when his wish is miraculously granted with the arrival of a signed photo. Now he plans to find her. And thus ensues a wild trip to New York, where he is guided by the "famous whore" Honey Smith, and where he finally meets the woman behind the name he has sought for so long.
Smart, hip, daringly imaginative, The Autograph Man gives readers a vivid glimpse of the signs (and signatures) of the times, and shows once again why Zadie Smith is one of our most admired young writers.
The Autograph Man