Look at Me

Look at Me

A Novel

Book - 2001
Average Rating:
4
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In her first novel since her widely praised debut,The Invisible Circus, Jennifer Egan demonstrates once again her virtuosity at weaving a spellbinding story with language that dazzles. In this boldly ambitious and symphonic novel, she captures the tenor of our times and offers an unsettling glimpse of the future. Fashion model Charlotte Swenson returns to Manhattan, having just recovered from a catastrophic car accident in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois. The skin of her face is perfect, but behind it lie eighty titanium screws that hold together the bones that were shattered when she hit the unbreakable windscreen of her car. Unrecognizable to her peers and colleagues, Charlotte finds it impossible to resume her former life. Instead, she floats invisibly through a world of fashion nightclubs and edgy Internet projects, where image and reality are indistinguishable. During her recovery in Rockford, she had met another Charlotte, the plain-looking teenage daughter of her former best friend. Young Charlotte, alienated from parents and friends, has come under the sway of two men: her uncle, a mentally unstable scholar of the Industrial Revolution, and an enigmatic high school teacher whom she seduces. In following these tales to their eerie convergence,Look at Meis both a send-up of image culture in America and a mystery of human identity. Egan illuminates the difficulties of shaping an inner life in a culture obsessed with surfaces and asks whether "truth" can have any meaning in an era when reality itself has become a style. Written with powerful intelligence and grace,Look at Meclearly establishes Jennifer Egan as one of the most daring and gifted novelists of her generation. From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York : Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2001
ISBN: 9780385502764
0385502761
Branch Call Number: EGAN
Characteristics: 415 p

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uncommonreader
Feb 06, 2014

This novel is about the American culture of image, media, and identity. It is somewhat prescient in its creation of the selling of identities on Internet. However, the story rambles, the concurrent narratives are awkward, the book is far too long, and it has too little to say. Not recommended.

k
KellyReader
Jul 10, 2012

I liked the Keep but did not enjoy this book at all.

c
ChrissyK
Jun 02, 2012

I just adore Jennifer Egan's writing. I was enthralled by this story.

ksoles Jan 27, 2012

It took Jennifer Egan six years to write "Look at Me," and it shows. This sprawling, ambitious novel links together strange and diverse characters: Moose, a middle-aged ex-jock turned erratic history professor, still reeling from an epiphany he experienced years ago; Charlotte, a teenager longing for love while her brother recovers from leukemia; a furious Lebanese terrorist and an unhappily divorced private detective. Most strikingly, another older Charlotte dominates the narrative, this one a model from New York who has been in a disastrous car accident. Her face has been reconstructed with 80 titanium screws; once her livelihood, it is now a mask she hides behind as she walks past old friends and lovers who show no sign of recognition.

Many critics have commented on the uncanny way in which Egan's futuristic visions have come true. Indeed, in an age without webcams, Egan invents a dotcom start-up that approaches Charlotte in the hope that she'll let them record and webcast every detail of her daily life. The author's hinting at terrorist attacks on the United States (the book was published before 9/11) invokes an equal sense of eerieness and unease.

The climax that brings all the characters together feels both implausible and predictable yet Egan ultimately creates a commentary on how our own stories are mediated, commodified and shone back at us distortedly. As Charlotte says of her modeling career: "Being observed felt like an action, the only one worth taking. Anything else seemed passive, futile by comparison."

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