Great attention was required to produce the British first edition of The Autograph Man both in terms of its overall layout as an artefact and also as a narrative. Its design consists of several layered elements, suggesting superimpositions, offering almost a quality of the palimpsest. One has to physically engage with the book beyond normal parameters. First if the book is removed from the dust jacket, one finds printed on the inside of the latter three very short stories described as ‘Being No. 1 in an occasional series of Practical and Moral Lifestyle Pamphlets written by the author of the accompanying novel,’ entitled ‘When You Turn Everything into Symbol, Bad Things Happen or The Same Instinct Runs Through It All’ (n.p.). This indicates obliquely one of the ongoing themes of the book, the contemporary preference for the symbolic over the real, image over substance. Opened out further the dust-jacket reveals on the reverse of both these stories and the book’s front cover, a whimsically illustrated ‘Kabbalah of Alex-Li Tandem’ (n.p.), the chart for Smith’s protagonist (referred to after the first few pages simply as Alex) who represents ‘Presence.’ The intricate literal opening required might be taken to indicate symbolically an elaborate opening out, a revelation of sorts.
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