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Look at Meby 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
"Comic, richly imagined, and stunningly written.... An energetic, unorthodox, quintessentially American vision of America." The New Yorker
"Look at Me is a complicated novel... but the questions it raises are worth following a lifetime of labyrinths toward the answers." Los Angeles Times
"Prescient and provocative.... The characters... jump from the pages and dare you to care about them.... The prose is crisp and precise.... The pieces fit together at the end with a satisfying click." Philadelphia Inquirer
"Egan's rich new novel... is about bigger things: double lives; secret selves; the difficulty of really seeing anything in a world so flooded with images." The Nation
"Egan's take... is surreal and profoundly ironic and exaggerated, but it still rings true.... Beneath it all, she finds characters worth saving." Hartford Courant
"Breathtaking.... Combines the tautness of a good mystery with the measured, exquisitely articulated detail and emotional landscape of the most literary of narratives.... Sure to leave readers thinking about these very real characters for some time to come." BookPage
"Riveting.... As the book gains momentum, Egan's writing is both fluid and driven, with wonderful slashes of satire.... A remarkable study of our culture... and of our palpable need to be known." O: The Oprah Magazine
"Egan's ability to move with ease between sincerity and satire sets Look at Me apart.... Her authentic-feeling details give a sense of unusual immediacy." Vogue
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
About the Author
Jennifer Egan is the author of The Invisible Circus and the story collection Emerald City. Her stories have been published in such magazines as The New Yorker, Harper's, GQ, Zoetrope, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine. Egan lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn.
For further information about Jennifer Egan, visit her Web site at www.jenniferegan.com.
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