"....few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into [her] heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memories to which, sooner or later - no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover or how much we learn or forget - we will return." -Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Autograph Man is the last Zadie Smith novel I will read

Zadie Smith is one of those authors that each time I read one of her books, I make a promise to myself NOT to read another one.  Reading The Autograph man only strengthened my resolve.

Why then, is this the third Zadie Smith novel I have read?  Just like many questions raised in the book, this remains unanswered.

The Autograph Man is about some messed up people. Not "regular" messed up, like you and me. I mean they are OUT THERE. The setting is London. Alex is our twenty-something protagonist and his issue is that he can't get beyond the death of his father, who died when he was a teenager. Alex's mother is Jewish and his father was Chinese. His best friend is Black and Jewish, and his best friend's sister is his girlfriend, who he clearly under appreciates. The whole lot of them is into drugs on some level. Religion and faith loom large as an unspoken character in the novel.

I liked the premise. I was with her in the beginning. As we delve deeper, we accompany Alex on a drug binge, hanging out with his friends, avoiding his faithful girlfriend and pursing the object of his obsession, Kitty Alexander, a has-been Hollywood actress from whom he just wants an autograph. 

Alex and his friends have a lot going on in their heads about cultural identity. They are having a hard time figuring out who they are and how that affects their lives and their choices. They are struggling with faith, commitment, responsibility and grief.

All of these issues are interesting to me. But after raising these issues, Ms. Smith just leaves us hangin'. Her characters have some pretty deep things to say, but they only half finish them. She jumps from subject to subject, from problem to problem and we never really get anywhere. About halfway through the novel, I started to get that "where are we going and why are we in this hand basket?" feeling.

I was interested in The Autograph Man and his friends and what they had to say. I almost got a lot out of this book, but then, I just didn't. So, seriously, I am NOT reading anymore Zadie Smith novels.  This, I promise myself. Does anyone know when she has a new one coming out?

Did you read The Autograph Man? What did you think?

Photo credit:  Sweet Mustache