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Signing Bonus

With The Autograph Man, Zadie Smith tackles celebrity, spirituality, and the curse of the sophomore slump.


If novelist Zadie Smith's failure to make the shortlist of the 2001 Booker Prize was proof of the award's irremediable stodginess, her status as a virtual shoo-in this year reflects a meteoric climb from upstart to standard-bearer. It helps that her first novel, White Teeth -- a close-up tour of England's cultural hybridization -- was bought for a reported $400,000 on the basis of fewer than a hundred pages before Smith, then 21, had even graduated from Cambridge. It sold nearly 1 million copies. Now 26 and moving Stateside to study at Harvard, Smith has fulfilled her two-book contract with the equally clever and contemporary The Autograph Man, a novel about a half-Chinese, half-Jewish autograph dealer pursuing a celebrity's signature while fighting off a physical, emotional, and spiritual breakdown.

The Autograph Man
by Zadie Smith
(Random House; October)

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