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3 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

Look at Me


Look at Me Cover

ISBN13: 9780385721356
ISBN10: 0385721358
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. “I was not Rockford—I was its opposite, whatever that might be,” Charlotte declares. In Charlottes mind, what does Rockford represent? How is her chosen path a reaction to her place of birth? Is her return to Rockford at the end of the book merely circumstantial, or does it represent a symbolic shift in her perception of her hometown?

2. Charlotte describes her notion of the shadow self as, “that caricature that clings to each of us, revealing itself in odd moments when we laugh or fall still, staring brazenly from certain bad photographs.” Why does this concept interest Charlotte, and what does that reveal about her character? What do you imagine Charlottes shadow self looks like? Does it change after her accident?

3. Many of the characters in Look at Me undergo major transformations—whether during the course of the novel or before it begins. In what specific ways do the characters change, and how do these changes affect their lives? Which transformations do you find most surprising? How is the idea of transformation linked to the novels larger thematic concerns about identity and self?

4. Discuss Z/Michael West. For what is he searching, and what does he find? How does his personal journey mirror Charlotte Swensons?

5. While recuperating from her accident and subsequent surgery, Charlotte allows none of her friends or acquaintances to see her. Once people see you in a weakened state, she claims, theyll never forget, “and long after youve regained your vitality, after you yourself have forgotten these exhibits of your weakness, theyll look at you and still see them.” How does this statement reflect Charlottes worldview at the beginning of the book? Is she right? Is her perspective borne out over the course of the novel, or does it evolve?

6. Misperceptions and misunderstandings play a crucial role in the plot of Look at Me; characters often reach for something they believe they see in one another, only to find that they were mistaken, or even purposely deceived. Identify some of these misunderstandings and talk about their significance to the novel as a whole.

7. Charlotte says, “information was not a thing—it was colorless, odorless, shapeless, and therefore indestructible. There was no way to retrieve or void it, no way to halt its proliferation.” Compare this statement to Mooses idea that “now the worlds blindness came from too much sight, appearances disjoined from anything real, afloat upon nothing, in the service of nothing, cut off from every source of blood and life.” What is the connection between these two statements? Do they present differing views of the world or simply different interpretations of the same problem? In the end, does Look at Me seem to sanction them or call them into question?

8. Despite his apparent instability, there is a peculiar beauty in Mooses striving for vision and in his efforts to communicate that vision to the young Charlotte. For what is he looking? Define, if you can, his odd emotional and spiritual response to industrial and historical events. When Moose experiences his vision once again at the end of the novel, what exactly do you think he sees?

9. Discuss Charlottes relationship with Irene Maitlock. What is it about Irene that draws Charlotte to her? Do you see any connection between this relationship and Charlottes friendship with Ellen Metcalf? How does Charlotte and Irenes relationship change over the course of the book?

10. All of the characters in Egans novel deal differently with the concept of memory: Michael West allows himself just one memory a day, Charlotte shuns her memories, and Moose exists in a world saturated by memories of his own life, along with imagined recollections of an earlier historical time. What connection does the novel suggest between personal memory and cultural memory? How do you suppose the young Charlotte might feel about her memories twenty years down the road?

11. Look at Me begins by recounting Charlotte Swenson and Ellen Metcalfs girlhood sexual misadventures. At the end of the novel, Charlotte and Ellen meet again, in very different circumstances. Talk about both womens experiences in the interim, and about the significance of their last meeting. Did it satisfy you?

12. At the end of the novel, Charlotte demurs, “As for myself, Id rather not say very much.” Indeed, the novel seems intentionally to leave us without a clear sense of what the future holds for its characters. Why do you think Egan has chosen to end her book so ambiguously? What sorts of lives will the Charlottes, Ellen Metcalf/Hauser, Z, Moose, Ricky, and Irene Maitlock go on to live?

13. Do you feel that Look at Me, with its depiction of how behind-the-scenes events contribute in the making of public images, will have any impact on the way you perceive celebrities?

14. Do you consider Look at Me—in particular, its brutal portrayal of the modeling world—a futuristic novel? Or can it be read it as a fairly accurate look at our present, evolving world? Might there be some way of escaping some of the disturbing scenes Egan describes?

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collowash, September 20, 2011 (view all comments by collowash)
Reading this book post 9/11 and post proliferation of reality TV shows, it's hard not to consider Jennifer Egan somewhat of a prophet. Both sad and hopeful, "Look At Me" is a troubling window on our image-obsessed culture with one particular passage that will--when you realize when it was written--give you chills.
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Product Details

Egan, Jennifer
Anchor Books
Jennifer Egan
Models (persons)
Teenage girls
Identity (psychology)
Psychological fiction
General Fiction
Fiction : General
Literature-A to Z
fiction;identity;novel;21st century;contemporary fiction;contemporary;american fiction;new york city;model;american;modeling;terrorism
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5.1 x 0.9 in 0.7 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Look at Me Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 544 pages Anchor (UK) - English 9780385721356 Reviews:
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Intriguing.... An unlikely blend of tabloid luridness and brainy cultural commentary.... The novel's uncanny prescience gives Look at Me a rare urgency."
"Review" by , "Egan has created some compelling characters and written provocative meditations on our times.... [She] has captured our culture in its edge-city awfulness."
"Review" by , "Brilliantly unnerving.... A haunting, sharp, splendidly articulate novel."
"Review" by , "Comic, richly imagined, and stunningly written.... An energetic, unorthodox, quintessentially American vision of America."
"Review" by , "Look at Me is a complicated novel... but the questions it raises are worth following a lifetime of labyrinths toward the answers."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Egan's take... is surreal and profoundly ironic and exaggerated, but it still rings true.... Beneath it all, she finds characters worth saving."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by , 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

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