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Signing Bonus

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

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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)

Buy it on bn.com


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