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Original Essays | June 20, 2014

Lauren Owen: IMG The Other Vampire



It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »
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2 Beaverton Literature- A to Z
2 Remote Warehouse Literature- A to Z

This title in other editions

The Autograph Man (Vintage International)

by

The Autograph Man (Vintage International) Cover

 

 

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Youre either for me or against me, thought Alex-Li Tandem, referring to the daylight and, more generally, to the day. He stretched flat and made two fists. He was fully determined to lie right here until he was given something to work with, something noble, something fine. He saw no purpose in leaving his bed for a day that was against him from the get-go. He had tried it before; no good could come from it.

A moment later he was surprised to feel a flush of warm light dappled over him, filtered through a blind. Nonviolent light. This was encouraging. Compare and contrast with yesterday mornings light, pettily fascist, cruel as the strip lighting in a hospital hallway. Or the morning before yesterday morning, when he had kept his eyes closed for the duration, afraid of whatever was causing that ominous red throb beneath the eyelids. Or the morning before that, the Morning of Doom, which no one could have supposed would continue for seventy-two hours.

NOW OPTIMISTIC, ALEX grabbed the bauble that must be twisted to open blinds. His fingers were too sweaty. He shuttled up the bed, dried his left hand on the wall, gripped and pulled. The rain had come in the night. It looked as if the Flood had passed through Mountjoy, scrubbed it clean. The whole place seemed to have undergone an act of accidental restoration. He could see brickwork, newly red-faced and streaky as after a good weep, balconies with their clean crop of wet white socks, shirts and sheets. Shiny black aerials. Oh, it was fine. Collected water had transformed every gutter, every depression in the pavement, into prism puddles. There were rainbows everywhere.

Alex took a minute to admire the gentle sun that kept its mildness even as it escaped a gray ceiling of cloud. On the horizon a spindly church steeple had been etched by a child over a skyline perfectly blue and flatly colored in. To the left of that sat the swollen cupola of a mosque, described with more skill. So people were off to see God, then, this morning. All of that was still happening. Alex smiled, weakly. He wished them well.

IN HIS BATHROOM, Alex was almost defeated by the discovery of a sequence of small tragedies. There was an awful smell. Receptacles had been missed. Stuff was not where stuff should be. Stepping over stuff, ignoring stuff, stoic Alex turned to the vanity mirror. He yanked it towards him by its metal neck until its squares became diamonds, parallelograms, one steel line. He had aged, terribly. The catch in his face, the one that held things up, this had been released. But how long was it since he had been a boy? A few days? A year? A decade? And now this?

He bared his teeth to the mirror. They were yellow. But on the plus side, they were there. He opened his Accidental eyes (Rubinfines term: halfway between Oriental and Occidental) wide as they would go and touched the tip of his nose to the cold glass. What was the damage? His eyes worked. Light didnt hurt. Swallowing felt basic, uncomplicated. He was not shivering. He felt no crippling paranoia or muscular tremors. He seized his penis. He squeezed his cheeks. Present, correct. Everything was still where it appears in the textbooks. And it seemed unlikely that he would throw up, say, in the next four hours, something he had not been able to predict with any certainty for a long time. These were all wonderful, wonderful developments. Breathing heavily, Alex shaved off three days worth of growth (had it been three days?). Finishing up, he cut himself only twice and applied the sad twists of tissue.

Teeth done, Alex remembered the wear-and-tear deposit he had paid his landlord and shuffled back to the bedroom. He needed a cloth, but the kitchen was another country. Instead he took a pillowcase, dipped it in a glass of water and began to scrub at the handprint on the wall. Maybe it looked like art? Maybe it had a certain presence? He stepped back and looked at it, at the grubby yellow outline. Then he scrubbed some more. It didnt look like art. It looked like someone had died in the room. Alex sat down on the corner of his bed and pressed his thumbs to his eyes to stop two ready tears. A little gasp escaped him. And whats remarkable, he thought, whats really amazing, is this, is how tiny the actual thing was in the first place. This thing that almost destroyed me. Two, no, maybe three days ago he had placed a pill on his tongue, like a tiny communion wafer. Hed left it there for ten seconds, as recommended, before swallowing. He had never done anything like this before. Nothing could have prepared him! Moons rose, suns fell, for days, for nights, all without him noticing!

Legal name: Microdot. Street name: Superstar. For a time it had made itself famous all through his body. And now it was over.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780375703874
Editor:
Asher, Martin
Publisher:
Vintage Books USA
Author:
Smith, Zadie
Location:
New York
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Collectors and collecting
Subject:
Autographs
Subject:
Tandem, Alex-Li
Subject:
Picaresque literature
Subject:
Autographs -- Collectors and collecting.
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage International
Series Volume:
108-83
Publication Date:
20030631
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8.00x5.20x.81 in. .64 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

The Autograph Man (Vintage International) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.95 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780375703874 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "Considered on its own, The Autograph Man is something strange and remarkable, a rumination on grief that resists its own profundity, trips into pratfalls of slapstick, and exposes the dark longing beneath our fascination with celebrities." (read the entire CSM review)
"Review A Day" by , "The Autograph Man...creates genuine disappointment, not the synthetic sort one is told to feel even in those cases of second-novel syndrome where the first novel wasn't, in fact, very good....[It is] very much smaller — less accomplished and less felt on every level — than [White Teeth]....By the time of [Alex's] return trip the novel has become so zany and improvisational that a reader wonders if Smith herself can track its action. And yet for all the rushing about, The Autograph Man feels not so much busy as empty, like a short story that's been padded beyond any reason....The Autograph Man, following White Teeth by only two years, makes a reader wonder what pressures, internal or commercial, compelled Zadie Smith to get back out there quite so quickly. Her new novel is too little too soon, and although she has more talen than just about anyone else in the room, no one, she needs to be reminded, has talent to burn." (read the entire Atlantic review)
"Review A Day" by , "The creation of Alex, in all his post-adolescent atrociousness, is new proof of Smith's talent. At a time when few young novelists seem willing to wander far from the comforts of autobiography, Smith's flexible imagination confirms her as a writer who deserves to be taken seriously. It is difficult to think of another recent novel in which a woman has drawn a male narrator so convincingly....In comparison with the richness of story and metaphor that characterized White Teeth, though, The Autograph Man feels disappointingly slim. For the earlier book's patient unrolling of plot and character it substitutes the tricks of the McSweeney's age: quirky lists, cute drawings, typographical high-jinks." (read the entire New Republic review)
"Review" by , "Supposedly this is Zadie Smith's 'small' novel, to follow up on her sprawling debut, the 2000 bestseller White Teeth, but the truth is that (so far) every Zadie Smith book is big — if not in length, then in energy, in thought and in feeling. A new novel from her feels like an occasion to open up another chamber in your heart and another lobe in your brain to take it all in; some books are expansive, hers are expanding, but never in a dreary, good-for-you way. Even in a year of strong books, The Autograph Man is cause to celebrate....Smith likes to trample over the usual delimiters of identity on her way to portraying a new kind of mongrel world citizen: little bit of this, little bit of that....For Smith's readers, the journey is a lark, lit up by witty, head-turning observations....Most novelists as smart as Smith tend not to like people that much, while the ones with big hearts tend to have soft heads....Whatever barrier keeps writers from fully inhabiting both territories seems to be as irrelevant to Smith as all the others. What did we do to deserve a young novelist this brilliant, this generous, this alive, here among what often look like the dying embers of the form? Nothing, really. Like Adam, we're just lucky — even if half the time we're too thick to know it."
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