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Look at Me

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  7,226 ratings  ·  926 reviews
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.

Paperback, 544 pages
Published October 8th 2002 by Anchor (first published 2001)
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The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty  SmithBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman CapoteExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Tales of New York City
223rd out of 900 books — 840 voters
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroAre You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy BlumeEverything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'ConnorWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward AlbeeRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Titlemania III: Whole-Sentence Titles
96th out of 661 books — 79 voters

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Community Reviews

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yay! friends read books togeeeether! and now i can finally link our reviews!

i wish i had read this when it first came out. and i am mad at myself for not loving this book as much as everyone else seems to have - when i read other reviews of it, i am jealous that it didn't grip me as much as it did others, as much as her other books have gripped me.

there are definite strengths here. she demonstrates an uncanny and impressive cultural prescience; the way wi
Petra X
Given it up. I'm reading A Tiger for Malgudi which is wonderfully written and a genius idea that incorporates a good story, pretty low comedy, philosophy, an unclothed sadhu and a tiger that needs to change its ways. I honestly can't see how Jennifer Egan's writing, at least in Look at Me can be considered excellent and on a par with Narayan's. It's true I've only read about a quarter of the book but it is written as if the heroine (and everyone else) has no inner life other than worrying about ...more
Karen and I read this book at roughly the same time. Read her review here.

Look at Me I'm giving a weak four stars, if there were half-stars it would be a three and a half. Right after I finished reading this I started Egan's collection of short stories Emerald City, and I'm happy I gave Look at Me four stars, so that I could give the story collection three stars and feel like the three Egan books I've read are clearly rated according to my enjoyment of them. I don't know what will happen if I re
I am surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

Reading during one of those godawful endurance tests when works spills well beyond the professional boundaries I've established long ago to keep my job's ruinous hands off the things that make life enjoyable almost always spells disaster for whatever unfortunate book is the victim of bad timing (and often absolutely no free time at all), as late nights and occupational frustration leave little brainpower and less desire to read things I'm not paid
Feb 28, 2008 Becca rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Sara - I'd like to know what she thinks of it!
I won't dispute that Jennifer Egan is a skilled writer - it is evident in LOOK AT ME. For me, though, this story lacked storytelling. I often struggle with books that are told from multiple points of view - mostly because I grow very invested in some characters, and read impatiently when they are not the story's focus (read: I do not like/care about the others). In this book, I didn't find my surrogate - the young Charlotte - until the second half, and, until then, I felt trapped in the book. I ...more
Jul 01, 2012 Edan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Stephanie Ford
Recommended to Edan by: Dan Chaon


I am so hot for Jennifer Egan right now. As I read this book (about a whole lot more than a model who gets a new face after a car accident, by the way), I often had to stop and admire the fluidity of Egan's narrative, how she moved in and out of action, in and out of flashback, in and out of a character's head. This book seemed so effortless, yet complicated, and I learned a lot about novel-making from reading it.

There was a chunk of about 60 pages near the end when I suddenly was
Tiffany Vaughan
I couldn't wait to finish this book. I just wanted it to end with every turn of the page. Despite the book turning into a perpetual monkey on my back, I was resolute on not giving up on it. It's just not in my genetic make-up to give up and be defeated, even by a densely crap book. Despite the pain, I wanted to keep on reading, not because I wanted to discover what happened, but because I have this 'thing' about half-finished projects, or anything in life, really, and this also goes for books. J ...more
Simon Lipson
A massively over-written novel which would have benefited from a less wordy author and/or a competent editor. Egan never bothers to use one word where sixteen flowery, uber-lyrical, overblown words will do. Convoluted sentences and showy vocabulary add little - indeed, they become nugatory and self-defeating. Odd, really, given the snappiness of Goon Squad (that horrendous, anal Powerpoint nonsense excepted) but perhaps Egan has now learned to refine and streamline her style - or found herself a ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Jessica marked it as aborted-efforts
I didn't want to like Jennifer Egan; I wanted to love her. I wanted her to be my new favorite writer, but due to some profound personal failing, I can't stand her books, which does pose something of a challenge there. I really don't know what's wrong with me and why I can't love this book like everyone else (i.e., Mike Reynolds); it has something to do with feeling really unimpressed by her prose, and by this feeling that nothing about her writing ever surprises me. I remember this from when I t ...more
Krok Zero
When I was first introduced to this amazing novel I was in no position to appreciate it. This was some four or five years ago, when, as a sophomore English major, I took a well-intentioned but somewhat premature course on 9/11 and the novel. I say premature because the number of novels that dealt directly with the attacks was pretty small at the time, and was further limited by the whims of the professor, who elected to eschew at least two of the more well-known eligible titles; the Foer and McE ...more
I wish I had given up on this book at the halfway point. I kept waiting for something to happen. . .something that I cared about. . . but nothing ever did. I found the book overly dramatic and I didn't care about any of the drama. I didn't care about any character in the book and had no way to relate to them. The characters I cared most about were not really in the story, i.e., Anthony Halladay's estranged wife, maybe even Halladay himself, the students Moose terrorized at Yale, the Korean child ...more
At the end of Look at Me there is an afterword from Jennifer Egan, explaining that she finished the final revision of the novel in January 2001. She goes on to say that the character of the terrorist who appears in the book, and the book itself, would have had to be entirely reconceived if it had still been a work in progress on September 11 of that year. No doubt this is true; after that, all writers became post-9/11 writers whether they wanted to or not. But the slight whiff of apology that em ...more
Justin Evans
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,
Amy Brown
Our book club usually meets at a restaurant, but one of our members is a newly minted Mary Kay rep (ask me about my eyeliner!) so we decided to meet at a member's house and have a combined meeting/Mary Kay presentation. In the spirit of beauty and identity and over-thinking everything, we decided to read a book which discussed those issues, so I asked Goodreads to recommend something, and this book is what it (you? we?) came up with.

I'm sure there is a great novel out there which deals with issu
Egan's lyric and poetic storytelling style immediately captured me, as did the compelling voice of protagonist Charlotte Swenson, who narrates several chapters of this novel throughout her convalescence from the horrifying car accident that opens the book. Along with Charlotte, Egan amasses an interesting cast of characters, each of them exploring how they construct their identities.

It was a fairly quick read that I couldn't easily put down. There is an interesting commentary on technology and c
There was a weird period of time in college where I decided self-disclosure was the way to go. I was heavily into angst at the time, mainlining The Smiths and Oscar Wilde and caught up in the notion that because I saw myself as different from my peers this was somehow worth advertising. Talking loudly and at length about feeling melancholy and unloved was a way for me to wreathe myself in superiority, to assert that even though I was a student at a largely white, fairly affluent Midwestern colle ...more
I actually have a lot of complaints - well, maybe not complaints - about Look at Me. It's a big mess of a book, but it's a smart mess. Egan is wildly imaginative and she has a lot of great ideas, but they don't cohere satisfactorily in the end.
Jennifer Egan has got to be one of the most ambitious writers of fiction working today. I loved both The Keep and A Visit From the Goon Squad, and I'd been looking forward to Look at Me for a good while. Finally I gave myself the gift of time with it.

The themes Egan deals with here are dynamite: our hyper-visual culture, the blurred dichotomy between a person's "inside" and "outside," double and triple lives, mutable identities, identities that crumble due to madness. She's intuited the connect
Dave Cullen
I didn't fall in love as quickly or rapturously as "A visit from the goon squad," but the writing is quite good, and it's drawing me in.

I finished it. Enthralled. Five stars.
Lynn Braz
"Look At Me" is an astonishingly prescient story that examines our culture's obsession with image, fame, consumerism. On one hand, it chronicles a culture that rose rapidly and is deteriorating even more quickly; on the other hand, it explores individuals' responses to the way they are perceived by society. It's deep. But it's also hilarious, brilliant, truly original.

The author, Jennifer Egan, uses a combination of first-person and third-person omniscient POVs to illustrate the lives of a glamo
I gave up after 58 pages. Didn't like it at all. Not sure who the main character is or what the author was trying to convey. Found her writing too forced/too descriptive. I'm all about a good similie but this book is overly peppered them (cheap pepper that is; the finely ground stuff that tastes like spicy dirt).
"She felt like an old radio issuing weird, splintering frequencies..."

"...whose catcher's mitt hands now hung at his sides, insensate as loaves of bread."

Also, her sentences me
meh. It's been a while since I enjoyed a book so little and still read it all the way to the end. If anyone thought I was like the Paula Abdul of Goodreads for my mostly 4- and 5-star reviews, it's really more that I rarely bother to keep going if I don't think something is that great. But I had just finished "A Visit from the Goon Squad," which I loved, and I'm seeing Egan at BAM soon, and it was a National Book Award finalist, fer crissakes. But meh. You know, there are a lot of interesting an ...more
This book must have had sponsors! Honest to goodness, household names really just don't have a place in books. It makes the book trite and dates it. I cannot believe how many times this poor Jennifer Egan used a brand name (on the last few pages, no lie, at least 25 brand names dropped) or said which band was playing on the radio. THis book smacks of the year 2000 in which it was written and unless you were there and remember all the pop culture, it will all seem so irrelevant.
I thought the plo
This is the first time I've read anything by Jennifer Egan. This story had so much potential and Egan did get her message(s) across, but I am someone who likes my stories without so much much. The writing in Look at Me is beautiful, the metaphors and modifiers are killer. But they happen too much and too often.

Egan has a wry sense of humor and there were moments when I laughed out loud as I pictured the scenes. Her dialogue is believable which is a deal breaker for me.

Maybe this is something aut
solid, high-level literary fiction concerning the adventures of a 35-year-old Manhattan model past her peak and who has suffered a car accident altering her features. like the later (2010) Visit from the Goon Squad time is the implicit theme, the microscopically and agonizingly noted blow-by-blow ravages of declining looks on the obsessive, sensitive, vulnerable, proud Charlotte, whose Midwest past and Manhattan futures form the multi-layered narration that famously 'anticipates 9/11' (which is ...more
This book reminded me a bit of Fight Club. They both center on a nostalgia for unmediated experience in a corporate, marketing-saturated age, and feature fractured identities, people divided against themselves. But while it has its own fantastical and grotesque elements, Look at Me seems grounded in a more fully-realized America with a wider cast of characters. Both Charlottes, the confused adolescent and the confused failing model no longer in arrested development, develop in fascinating ways. ...more
Jonathon Dyer
Jennifer Egan is, to my mind, one of the finest storytellers writing in English today. Look at Me is an extraordinary accomplishment. It's an intricate tale, weaving two main narratives and handful of other voices into a fictional firmament of breathtaking intricacy and eminent believability. It's also a philosophical consideration of identity, persona and the kinds of truths we're unwilling to admit even to ourselves.

I don't want to give too much away; immerse yourself in the beauty of the pros
Alan Chen
I’m a fan of Egan ever since I read A Visit from the Goon Squad a few months ago and I find her work to have some literary merit. She delves deep into characters and whether or not you like them you walk away with an idea of their essence.

Main character in this novel is Charlotte, she’s an aging model who once could have hit the big time but didn’t quite make it. Novel starts in the 90s when Charlotte has a car accident and comes out completely disfigured. After multiple plastic surgeries she co
Jennifer Egan's authorial voice is a truly stunning blend of approachable and innovative. In A Visit from the Goon Squad I was floored by this rising crescendo of identity studies, layers of perspective that architected a novel that felt, for once, novel. If you read that first, as I did, then turn to Look at Me, it becomes clear that identity and our struggle to find and articulate it is a central thesis that Egan returns to in different ways.

Egan gives Charlotte Swenson the central, starring
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Jennifer Egan was born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco. She attended the University of Pennsylvania and St John's College, Cambridge.

She is the author of three novels, The Invisible Circus, Look at Me, a finalist for the National Book Award, and the bestselling The Keep, and a short story collection, Emerald City. She has published short fiction in The New Yorker, Harper's, McSweeney's and
More about Jennifer Egan...
A Visit from the Goon Squad The Keep The Invisible Circus Emerald City The Best American Short Stories 2014

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“We lie. That's what we do. You're selling me a line of bullshit and you want me to sell you a line of bullshit back so you can write a major line of bullshit and be paid for it.” 12 likes
“At night, the house thick with sleep, she would peer out her bedroom window at the trees and sky and feel the presence of a mystery. Some possibility that included her--separate from her present life and without its limitations. A secret. Riding in the car with her father, she would look out at other cars full of people she'd never seen, any one of whom she might someday meet and love, and would feel the world holding her making its secret plans.” 8 likes
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