A drug-dealing millionaire, a couple of old friends and Esther, a girlfriend complete with a pacemaker, all complicate the plot. Alex-Li does travel to New York where the real Kitty Alexander may be found. He meets many people, some of whom help and some of whom hinder. A famous prostitute called Honey becomes a companion and does eventually secure contact with his object of worship, Ms Alexander who, of course, proves to be somewhat different from the celebrity projection.
The Autograph Man harbours a multiplicity of references to popular culture. The book hints at this consumption of manufactured experience as enslavement. It also suggests that ordinary people’s release from traditions that offer no inclusion might be liberation. It dabbles in drug culture where anything may be traded, especially the worthless. Individual and community identity, both fundamentally confused by globalisation, can themselves be commoditised and thus blended like a favourite coffee or cocktail. As such, they become nothing more than transitory, relying more on a mix of nostalgia and aspiration than commitment. So why not throw in a portion of Buddhism, a pinch of Zen into the mix? Why not? Why?
Ultimately this last question is the word that undermines The Autograph Man. It is too coherent to be absurd, too falsely constructed to convince, too disparate to inform. Random juxtapositions are capable of producing wonderful witticism and occasional insight, but when this is done with a conceptual framework for a novel, the result is sometimes enjoyable and occasionally interestingly constructed, but eventually unrecognisable and probably meaningless.