The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith

25 Oct


“Alex-Li Tandem survives a bad name day, a bad trip and a raft of unlikely coincidences to discover celebrity has its price.” That sounds like a send-up to me… Nonetheless, despite my obvious cringe when Thin Potations gets into PC-kickback mode — I mean, what do you expect me to do? — I still follow his literary recommendations with respect, and you might recall his recommendation of White Teeth, Smith’s first novel, earlier this month. So I borrowed The Autograph Man (2002) just now from Surry Hills Library, along with:

  • Alan Spence, Its Colours They Are Fine (1977, pb 1997)
  • Ian Rankin, Let It Bleed (1995)
  • K M Soehnlein, The World of Normal Boys (2000)
  • Giles Milton, White Gold (2004) — “a treasure” according to that review
  • Stephen Bates, A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality, to put John Shelby Spong in context. Spong’s autobiography, which I have just finished reading, certainly impressed me and much he says resonates strongly with me. I particularly note how Spong’s views did not drop from the sky but evolved as the result of particular encounters and experiences.

    Another book I am working through — it is not very thick — is John Gray, Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern (2003): “Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern, while not without problems, is chock-full of interesting observations and stimulating insights… Hegel admonished us to enter into the strengths, rather than the weaknesses, of our adversary’s arguments–something Gray resoundingly fails to do in these two books; attacking universalism by targeting positivism and neoliberalism is to score cheap points while avoiding more challenging questions. Although Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern shows several signs of improvement over Straw Dogs, in the end it remains plagued by the underlying impulses that animate Gray’s work generally. As far as he has traveled, and as frequently as he has changed lanes, he’s still conservative after all these years.” But worth reading, in my view so far.


    About 100 pages into Zadie Smith already and loving it; who cares if it doesn’t seem to have a plot? Thought of Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy.

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    Posted by on October 25, 2005 in book reviews, British, Christianity, Fiction, fundamentalism and extremism, Gay and Lesbian, History, Islam, local, Multicultural, Pomo, Surry Hills, terrorism, Top read


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