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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
The Autograph Man: Your views
White Teeth (Channel Four)
White Teeth is now a television series
After huge critical acclaim for her debut novel White Teeth, Zadie Smith returns with her second book, The Autograph Man.

The book follows the fortunes of Alex-Li Tandem, an autograph seller who aims to track down the signature of forties movie actress Kitty Alexander.

"The Autograph Man is a bold novel but the talent Smith undoubtedly has and the great promise her writing holds is still unexpressed and unfulfilled," says BBC News Online's Darren Waters.

But what did you think?

This debate is now closed. Please see below for a selection of your comments.

Have your say

I'm sorry but I still don't understand why Zadie Smith got such rave reviews the first time around. White Teeth was the only book I know of that four, yes, four of my friends had bought and started and like me gave up half way through... For some reason she was unjustifiably hyped which is why all are now so keen to criticise the poor girl...
D Martin, UK

I have bought the audio cassette version of this book. I have found it very entertaining listening to this in the evenings. I am considering buying the book since side two of the cassette was chewed up by the machine and now plays back at half speed.
Drefus Logo, Rep of Ireland

I'll wait til the paperback, but meanwhile think this backlash against Zadie Smith is so wretchedly typical of all that is wrong with this country. Building someone up and loading unsustainable plaudits on them, then smashing them down for being too hoity toity and not as good as they were made out to be in the first place. She is young and has done startlingly well and deserves a bit of "space". Look how long it took Donna Tartt to follow up on her extraordinary early success.
CCC, England

Sometimes you think it would almost be better not to have a really successful first novel, but build your reputation up gradually. It's like Citizen Kane or Catch 22, You do one good thing first and then nothing afterwards ever quite matches up. I hope Zadie just ignores any bad press and keeps up the good work.
Ben, England

The Autograph Man is a wonderful novel and, contrary to the critics, better than White Teeth. Unfortunately, the British press and, more importantly, the British public would never forgive Zadie the enormous success of her first novel. You knew what the reviews were going to be before the book was even written. The fashionable thing this literary season will be to pooh-pooh Zadie. But who else will these same folks be reading? Dullards like Ian McEwan and Nick Hornby? Their American counterparts, like Franzen? Give me a break.
Greg, US/UK

The Autograph Man is the most disappointing second novel since Harper Lee owned up to ghosting that Britney Spears book. I loved White Teeth and expected to be entirely bowled over by The Autograph Man, and perhaps that was the trouble - my expectations were so high that I'd be bound to feel let down if I didn't actually die of pleasure.

But on any reading it's just not that good - the main characters are colourless and mostly ciphers for Smith's points-to-be-made on Judaism and celebrity. And most of the jokes had my toes curling all the way up to my spine.

It rises to Smith's potential in two places: the prologue, with its excellent digressive and funny narrative on Victoria and Albert and 1980s wrestling; and the third quarter of the book, set in America, where we meet the only interesting characters in Kitty Alexander and Honey Richardson. Zadie: enjoy your "time off" in Harvard and next time: stop trying so hard!
Alan Simpson, Belfast, NI

I love Smith's writing and I'm not English. I know I would probably get a lot more out of her work if I was English, but, for me, she has brought life to the unsung characters of this world. Her characterisations are so fresh and witty. She is one of the most entertaining writers of today. She has made me laugh and think at the same time. I wonder why the majority of you are treating her so badly. Is it jealousy? You go girl!
William Piltzer, USA

See also:

02 Oct 02 | Reviews
06 Sep 02 | Arts
17 Sep 02 | Reviews
19 Aug 02 | Arts
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