Bargain book: Second novel syndrome

Evening Post, 9 Feb 2006

The Autograph Man Zadie Smith, Fopp, £3

When you see the American hardback edition of a novel on sale over here for about a sixth of the cover price, you know something's gone badly wrong. In this case, that something may have been White Teeth, which prompted huge print runs and thick hype for this trickier follow-up. The main character, a Chinese-Jewish chancer who yearns for his lost father and the signature of an obtainable film star, is not sympathetic. Learning is piled on. It's the kind of thing destined to be loved by a few thousand people. Thanks to the publishers' error, however, it's now cheaper to find out if you're one of them.