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Look at Me: A Novel Paperback – October 8, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Equipped with an arresting premise, Egan's hip and haunting second novel (after The Invisible Circus) gets off to a promising start. Thirty-five-year-old Charlotte, a thoroughly unpleasant Manhattan-based model who escaped the middle-class nothingness of her upbringing in Rockford, Ill., then spent her adult life getting by on appearances, literally loses her face in a catastrophic car accident back in Rockford. As Charlotte's rebuilt face heals and she goes unrecognized at the restaurants and nightclubs that were her old haunts, she must grapple with the lives and losses she has tried to outrun a fractured childhood friendship, the fiancé she betrayed and "Z," a suspicious man from an unidentified Middle Eastern country. Anthony Halliday, an attractive, tormented private investigator, interrupts Charlotte's isolation. Hired by a pair of nightclub owners to track down Z because he absconded with a pile of their money, Halliday carries the scent of romance, but he also kicks off a chain of introductions that bizarrely lands Charlotte in the "mirrored room" of great fame. She is reconnected with her past at the same time that she becomes part of a brave new Internet world, where identity itself is a consumable commodity. Oddly, this narrative alternates with that of her old friend Ellen's daughter (also named Charlotte), whose life in Rockford centers around two older men. Though expertly constructed and seductively knowing, Egan's tale is marred by the overblown trendiness at its core. Charlotte (the model, who progresses from horrid to just bearable by the end) and the others come to the same realization: a world ruled by the consumerist values bred by mass production and mass information is "a world constructed from the outside in." The Buddha said it better. National advertising; author tour. (Sept. 18)and Harper's, and The Invisible Circus was recently made into a film featuring Cameron Diaz.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Library Journal
Charlotte, a successful thirtyish model, miraculously survives a horrific car crash near Rockford, IL, her despised hometown. However, reconstructive facial surgery alters her appearance irrevocably. Within the fashion world, where one's look is one's self, she has become literally unrecognizable. Seeking a new image, Charlotte stumbles into a tantalizing Internet experiment that may both save and damn her. Back in Rockford, another Charlotte, this one a plain, unhappy teenager, wonders who she really is. Her search for self drives her to extremes; she maintains a tortuous sexual liaison with a mysterious high school math teacher and takes on an eerie scholar-disciple role opposite her unbalanced Uncle Moose, who is obsessed by his unorthodox theories about the Industrial Revolution. The intersections of these and the novel's other intriguing characters raise tantalizing questions about identity and reality in contemporary American culture. Egan continues to fulfill the literary promise she showed in her previous fiction, The Invisible Circus and Emerald City. Recommended for most collections.
- Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty P.L., VA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top customer reviews
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and in come cases re-read her work, and find her writing both entertaining
and profound. There is always a subtext dealing with important cultural
issues. Perhaps not for all tastes but I always look forward to her next
The older Charlotte is a 28-year-old-beauty (or anyway was before her face gets redone) who admits to having been born 35 years before the story takes place. She's a far from super fashion model who makes the playoffs but never gets to the final round (what she calls her "mirrored room") has her face repaired in Rockford (it now sports 80 titanium screws), her home town, and then returns to New York--to find nobody recognizes her anymore.
The younger Charlotte, 16, the daughter of the older Charlotte's high school friend, is an unconventionally troubled teen with an attitude, a brother who's being treated for leukemia, and a dotty uncle.
Also making an appearance are an alcoholic private detective and the mysterious Z, terrorist-math teacher, whose life takes a dramatic turn after he dines at a Micky D's.
Egan skillfully interweaves the story lines and creates some hilarious moments--among them a fashion photographer who finds a creative use for razors, perhaps the most bizarre attempted suicide in recent American literature, a reference to a tv documentary about the making of a "making of" movie, and a climactic attempt to re-create on film what is now Charlotte's (in)famous auto accident for an Internet Website, to which she has sold her very identity.
In an afterword, Egan mentions that she wrote the book between 1994 and 2001. So what seems like remembrance and reflection is actually prescience and prediction. It's quite an achievement.