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Look at Me: A Novelby Jennifer Egan
2001 National Book Award Finalist
Synopses & Reviews
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 Me is 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 Me clearly establishes Jennifer Egan as one of the most daring and gifted novelists of her generation.
"Arresting.... Look at Me is the real thing — brave, honest, unflinching. [It] is itself a mirror in which we can clearly see the true face of the times in which we live." Francine Prose, The New York Observer
"Intriguing.... An unlikely blend of tabloid luridness and brainy cultural commentary.... The novel's uncanny prescience gives Look at Me a rare urgency." Time
"Egan has created some compelling characters and written provocative meditations on our times.... [She] has captured our culture in its edge-city awfulness." The Washington Post Book World
"Brilliantly unnerving.... A haunting, sharp, splendidly articulate novel." The New York Times
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 eightytitanium 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 DavidLynch, 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, analcoholic 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 acoolly mesmerizing intellectual thriller of identity and imposture.
"From the Trade Paperback edition."
About the Author
JENNIFER EGAN is the author of the novels Look at Me, The Invisible Circus (which was released as a movie starring Cameron Diaz and Jordana Brewster), and a collection of stories, Emerald City.
Born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco, Egan attended the University of Pennsylvania and St. John's College, Cambridge. Her fiction has appeared in such publications as The New Yorker, Harpers, GQ and Ploughshares, and she is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine.
She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.
From the Hardcover edition.
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