Cover Girls Zadie Smith and Donna TarttElle's annual hot list of pop-cultural highlights to watch for this fall.
There's a pleasing, almost novelistic symmetry to the concurrent publication of the second novels by Donna Tartt and Zadie Smith this fall. Tartt's 1992 debut, The Secret History, made a big splash that was arguably unrivaled until eight years later, when Smith's first effort, White Teeth, caused a similar commotion. Both authors were impressively youthful, and both novels were distinguished by an authoritative voice and a preternaturally graceful style. They also notably diverged from the common run of semiautobiographical laments about ex-boyfriends and nasty bosses. The two were media darlings, yet they remained equally (and anachronistically) tight-lipped about their private lives. They have likewise been silent about their highly anticipated sophomore efforts. This much we do know: Tartt's The Little Friend, of which Knopf is cranking out 250,000 copies for starters, is about a twelve-year-old girl in small-town Mississippi who is determined to avenge her brother's unsolved murder; Smith's book, which bears the similarly straightforward title The Autograph Man (Random House, 100,000 copies), is a rumination on celebrity that tells of a man who traffics in autographs—a commodity with which both authors will soon be all too familiar.
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