Thursday, May 24, 2018

Look at Me, by Jennifer Egan

I enjoyed Egan's Manhattan Beach, but I was disappointed by this book.  The main protagonist, Charlotte, is a successful model who has a car accident that ruins her face.  Although surgeons patch her up pretty well, we're told, she is not recognizable by her colleagues from her previous life.  I found this alone difficult to believe, as people are more than just their face.  Like I can often recognize a person by watching them move,  just seeing them walk down the street. 

So anyway, we follow Charlotte post-wreck to see what direction her life will take now that she can no longer model, and we also follow a few other characters of varying interest.  My problem was that I was not captivated by any of these other people.  One guy, Moose, has some kind of mental breakdown and the parts about him go on and on about his thoughts and ideas... but I couldn't tell where this was supposed to be going.  I couldn't understand him either as a person who is suffering from, say, bipolar disorder (his actual condition was not explained), or as an academic who feels he has made a major discovery. 

Another character has a secret past, and once you figure out what that is you understand his previously rather odd behavior, though he still fails to be convincing.  He doesn't seem to progress.

There were some interesting ideas and pithy statements, but not enough to offset the boredom and confusion created by other parts of the book.  I think it's funny that some of our patrons didn't like Manhattan Beach, but I did, yet I don't like this book.