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Look at Me

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  11,404 ratings  ·  1,281 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, 417 pages
Published October 8th 2002 by Anchor (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.41  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,404 ratings  ·  1,281 reviews

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Sep 18, 2012 rated it liked it
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 william gibson predicted the internet, she
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
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tiffany Vaughan
Jul 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
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
Aug 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Simon Lipson
Dec 16, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 27, 2009 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
"After the accident, I became less visible. I don't mean in the obvious sense that I went to fewer parties and retreated from general view. Or not just that. I mean that after the accident, I became more difficult to see."

Where to begin. I read Egan's Pulitzer Prize winning book and was not impressed at all. Having decided to give her a second chance, I could not be more satisfied with my decision. This book is all about identity. But that statement seems quite over-simplified, given the number
Krok Zero
Jun 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: summer-2010
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
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 11, 2017 rated it liked it
In my summer quest to read some of the titles that have been languishing on my TBR for years, I picked up Jennifer Egan’s 2001 novel, Look at Me. Egan is an author I should love. Her books (of which I’ve read four now) contain all the elements I love to read: non-linear storytelling; complex and damaged characters; and the exploration of a big idea.

Look at Me is no exception as it explores the idea of how we see – ourselves, others, the world, truth – through the shifting perspectives of four v
Mattia Ravasi
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Video review

So prescient it's scary, it features an unforgettable cast of characters headed at breakneck speed toward certain doom. No need for that title, it's impossible to look away.
Justin Evans
Nov 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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 Rhoda  Brown
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, book-club
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
Oct 28, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-ground
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.
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Jonathon Dyer
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dave Cullen
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jason Pettus
DID NOT FINISH. I found a copy of Jennifer Egan's 2001 National Book Award finalist Look At Me in my neighborhood Little Free Library the other day, and thought I'd take it home and read it completely on a lark, primarily because I've read her Pulitzer-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad in the past and didn't find it particularly awful (although I didn't find it particularly good either, but more on that in a minute). Things started out fine, but even by the 25-percent mark, I found myself dist ...more
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Lynn Braz
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"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
Jul 15, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Trixie Fontaine
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First third of the book I felt like oooooohhhh yesssss this book is going to get all of my stars!

Second third: so excited to hurtle along with all of these great characters I love as much as myself.

The end: not so much. Too much like the rain of frogs music video part in Magnolia. Too many dropped threads. Read the words abrasive | bonhomie | abraded | bonhomie | abrasive too many times. I think I was okay with how Moose was wrapped up, though.

One of those amazingly perfect books that winds up d
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 21st-century, fiction
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
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Jennifer Egan’s 2017 novel, Manhattan Beach, has been awarded the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Egan was born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco. She is also the author of The Invisible Circus, a novel which became a feature film starring Cameron Diaz in 2001, Look at Me, a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction in 2001, Emerald City and Other Stories, The Keep ...more

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