The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith

(Hamish Hamilton, £16.99). Condensed in the style of the original

Alex-Li feels a little left out as Rubinfine and Adam lock fingers. He starts chatting to the boy sitting next to him at the Big Daddy wrestling match. "Hi, I'm Alex-Li Tandem," he says.

"Joseph Klein," the boy replies, "I collect autographs."

"Oh look," gasps Alex-Li, as he watches Li-Jin collapse. "My father's just died. Maybe I'll collect autographs, too."

* * *

Alex-Li had been in bed for three days. That was some Superstar microdot. He stretched his legs and took in the north-west London air. In the distance he caught sight of Rabbi Rubinfine.

"How are you doing?" he asked.

"Why do you always talk in italics?" the Rabbi replied.

"Dunno. I've got this odd stylistic tic."

"Let's talk about being Jewish."


"Is that not all that Jewish people talk about?"

Alex-Li dropped in on Adam.

"Esther's unhappy with you," said Ads.

"Can't help that. I've finally been sent a genuine Kitty Alexander."

"You've been taking too many drugs, man, no one's got a Kitty."

Alex-Li went to Cotterell's to verify some autographs. It was the first time he had seen Boot since ending their affair.

"Boot, meet Joseph and Rubinfine," said Alex-Li, as they got to his flat.

"We've met."

"You bastard, Joseph," yelled Alex-Li, "you've had an affair with Boot, too, and told Esther about mine."

Jesus, thought Alex-Li as he checked his messages. I must have booked a flight to New York while I was out of it. Still, it will go down well with US readers. He phoned Ads. "I'm off to New York."

"You'll miss Esther's heart operation."

"Hmm. That adds some pathos."

"Hi, Kitty."

"How did you track me down when thousands of other autograph hunters haven't managed it in 40 years?"

"It wasn't too hard. Now that I've got you away from your manager, Max, come with me to London and cash in."

"Esther, meet Kitty. I've just made her £150K."

"We'll get on fine. But I still don't know whether I want to get back with you."

"I think I still miss my Dad."

"Recite the Kaddish," said Rubinfine.

The digested read... digested: Alex-Li Tandem survives a bad name day, a bad trip and a raft of unlikely coincidences to discover celebrity has its price

The GuardianTramp

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