(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Autograph Man is set in a fictional north London suburb called Mountjoy. The novel opens with a prologue in which the young Alex-Li Tandem attends a wrestling match with his father, Li-Jin, and his two friends, Mark Rubenfine and Adam Jacobs. They meet Joseph Klein, who introduces the boys to autograph collecting. At the end of the prologue, Alex’s father collapses and dies of a brain tumor just at the moment the boys are rushing forward to get the autograph of the wrestler Big Daddy. Throughout most of the novel, the inability to face the death of his father and escaping reality by collecting autographs are Alex’s predominant character traits.

Book 1 is set fifteen years later in Mountjoy. Alex has become a professional autograph dealer. He especially desires the autograph of 1950’s Hollywood film star Kitty Alexander, to whom he has written weekly for thirteen years. The four boys of the prologue are still close friends. Alex has a girlfriend, Adam’s sister Esther, but lives a superficial life and seems unable to connect with other people. His friend Adam, a black Jewish mystic, urges him to read the mourner’s Kaddish on the anniversary of his father’s death, but Alex resists the idea. Book 1 presents Alex’s obsession with the cult of celebrity and the brittle shallowness of this life with satirical and sometimes ribald humor and ends as he finally receives his desire, Kitty Alexander’s autograph, in the mail.

Book 2 is set in New York, where Alex is...

(The entire section is 612 words.)