It may have been a mistake to read this right after White Teeth. The Autograph Man is on a completely different scale to its predecessor, the narrative taking only a couple of weeks and centering around one main character, Alex Li-Tandem, an autograph collector who loses his father in the opening chapter.
Alex lacks charm and his obsession with film star Kitty Alexander is second only to his obsession with himself. Set in London (Mountjoy), the action takes us to New York and back again in search of… something. I never really engaged with Alex, and therefore never really engaged with the novel. There are enjoyable moments, like the set piece where Alex attempts to drown his sorrows by drinking his way through the alphabet:
Beer turned up again in brand name form for F, the spiteful, familiar Gin followed by Hot Toddy, made by Tommy who (with unguessed at athleticism) vaulted over the bar to make it.
The unsatisfying jumbled narrative attempts to bring together the autograph world and Jewish mysticism, and its’ main characters lack of charm, with a large dollop of pointless supporting cast members never pulled me completely. Hard to recommend.