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Look At Me by Jennifer Egan
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Look At Me (2001)

by Jennifer Egan

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951269,132 (3.46)47
  1. 00
    Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta (stevereads)
  2. 00
    Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women by Michael Gross (ainsleytewce)
  3. 00
    The Temporary by Rachel Cusk (stevereads)
  4. 00
    Remainder by Tom McCarthy (kseniyat)
    kseniyat: Remainder has the same tone of surreality that Look at Me takes on. The plots are very different, but there is a similar meditation on appearance vs. substance, and its sometimes surreal consequences, that drive much of Look at Me. The sense of humor of these two others also have something in common.… (more)
  5. 01
    Veronica by Mary Gaitskill (ainsleytewce)
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» See also 47 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Maybe it deserves 4 stars but something about the ending stopped me from giving it the 4 I was intending. Goon Squad did a better job of interweaving independent characters in what I now call the Egan way. What makes Egan's books better than others of its ilk is the non-cliche internal lives of her characters. She invents their psychology without the help of those who do it professionally and, at least from the standpoint of fiction, she does it better. It's more immediate and mostly believable. ( )
  Gimley_Farb | Jul 6, 2015 |
liked the bits about shadow selves ( )
  Stuckey_Bowl | Mar 23, 2015 |
The book felt labored and purposeless. The switching around between the different characters' points of view, some written in first person and others in third, feels like an author who isn't in control of her own story. The characters regularly do mean and pointless and inexplicable things--for example, the main character kisses a potential new boyfriend, who is sober alcoholic, and deliberately holds tequila in her mouth and forces the alcohol into his mouth as they kiss for the first time. Huh? Who would behave like this? So many times these characters are simply not behaving in realistic ways. And yet the novel also fails as some kind of exaggeration of real life because the prose itself is so plain and plodding that I as a reader feel strongly signaled that I'm supposed to be taking these characters and their situations seriously. Also, I felt scummy reading it, possibly because of the side story in which a girl instigates her own sexual abuse by a much older man. I pretty much hated it. ( )
  poingu | Jan 29, 2015 |
I loved this book and recommend it highly: Wonderful writing, characters I cared about, elements of satire that were funny and perceptive. It is not really lighthearted because its themes concern obsession with image and surface and the soullessness of (aspects of?) American culture, but there is a lot of humor. I feared for all the main characters but the author worked out a very satisfying ending. Jennifer Egan has a wonderful website and I emailed her to tell her about my pleasure in reading her book. I can't wait to read her more recent novel, "A Visit from the Goon Squad". ( )
  jdukuray | Dec 31, 2014 |
Ever wanted to read a philosophical novel with all the philosophy taken out? Here's your beast. I'd thought, since she's been in the news for a recent novel, that Egan was alive and well, but this novel makes it quite obvious that she died sometime around 1914, and is in fact a Victorian novelist disguised as our contemporary. Why is it obvious?

* slightly poetic but otherwise totally banal prose style.
* huge numbers of plots that never actually get joined together.
* fascination with characters, but no way of actually distinguishing them other than altering their ages and genders (i.e., they all sound exactly the same).
* at least twice as long as it should have been.
* obsession with social and intellectual issues, but in a purely personal manner that, ironically, never does much more than skim the surface of said issues.
* silly ideas about seeing people's 'true selves.'

Yes: this is a Victorian novel, written about what we think of as a uniquely twentieth century problem, the obsession with images and appearances.

More specifically, for the first 100 pages, the first-person narrative of Charlotte the model is really boring, and the third person narrative of Charlotte the young girl is great. For the next 300 pages, this is so completely inverted that I almost skipped whole chapters to get back to the actual story, as young Charlotte's plot blossomed out into a whole bunch of useless, shit flowers (her brother has cancer! her uncle is crazy! her friends are teenagers!). Yes, there's all sorts of neat, foreheadsmackingly obvious parallels between the Charlottes (they both relate to people only through sex! they both live/d in Rockford! they know some of the same people! they both alter their appearance! they're both involved with a man who might be a terrorist but actually appears to have decided to direct movies instead!), but otherwise there's no connection between them. In other words: one story, told twice. Not fun.

The breathless praise this book received suggests that people really like reading about things that are just about to happen, and that's fair. But I was deeply disappointed: this could have been a monster. As it is, it's period piece, but one that makes me think I ought to keep reading her novels, because she clearly *could* write the monster. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
A critic could write a long essay on the novel's sophisticated treatment of perception, image, media and identity. Luckily for you, I won't. What more people have found exciting here is the uncanny way in which many of Egan's futuristic visions have come true.
 
Less pedantic than its message would indicate, the book reads like both a mystery and a romance novel, like a Raymond Chandler detective story and, at times, a Judy Blume teenage-problem book. Propelled by plot, peppered with insights, enlivened by quirkily astute characterizations, and displaying an impressive prescience about our newly altered world, “Look at Me” is more nuanced than it first appears. Ultimately, it takes us beyond what we see and hints at truths we have only just begun to understand.
added by Nickelini | editSalon, Amy Reiter (Nov 14, 2001)
 
Given the sorry state of so much current fiction, the appearance of a novel with a narrative style that seems fresh, accurate, clear and inventive-especially when combined with a gift for observation and the delineation of character-is truly an occasion for calling up one's friends to announce that the novel has once again survived the latest dire predictions of its demise.
 
Egan reminds us too often that her philosophical concern is with appearance: how what is seen defines what is. But any impatience with overwriting and plot manipulations is overwhelmed by the ever-present page-turning energy.

A surprisingly satisfying stew of philosophy, social commentary, and storytelling.
added by Nickelini | editKirkus (Aug 15, 2001)
 
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We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.

--Ulysses, James Joyce
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After the accident, I became less visible.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385721358, Paperback)

At the start of this edgy and ambitiously multilayered novel, a fashion model named Charlotte Swenson emerges from a car accident in her Illinois hometown with her face so badly shattered that it takes eighty titanium screws to reassemble it. She returns to New York still beautiful but oddly unrecognizable, a virtual stranger in the world she once effortlessly occupied.

With the surreal authority of a David Lynch, Jennifer Egan threads Charlotte’s narrative with those of other casualties of our infatuation with the image. There’s a deceptively plain teenaged girl embarking on a dangerous secret life, an alcoholic private eye, and an enigmatic stranger who changes names and accents as he prepares an apocalyptic blow against American society. As these narratives inexorably converge, Look at Me becomes a coolly mesmerizing intellectual thriller of identity and imposture.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:44 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Model Charlotte Swenson returns to Manhattan after recovering from a devastating car accident in her Illinois hometown. She finds that she can't restart her career and floats invisibly through the New York fashion world.

» see all 3 descriptions

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