You Don’t Own Me, I Don’t Own Me: Identity and Jennifer Egan’s Look at Me

Look at MeLook at Me by Jennifer Egan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the beginning of this book, but once she started getting into the “Ordinary People” reality TV/social networking thing, I started to find it boring.

Egan’s style reminds me of Ann Packer to a degree, but this might be just because I read Look at Me immediately after two of Packer’s books. The difference I see with Egan is in the action of the story. Her plots seem to follow a more fanciful direction. The second half of this book actually kind of reminded me of P.K. Dick (not sure if anyone else would see the similarity and I’m not sure I can explain it adequately, or if there’s really much overlap between Egan and P.K. Dick readers, but that’s what “Ordinary People” put me in mind of).

The characters in this story all go through or have gone through a “before and after” kind of experience, several of them more than one. Egan seems to be questioning the very nature of personal identity. What does it mean to each of us to be “me”? Am I identified by how I look, by what I do or have done, by what I own? If one or more of these things changes, am I still “me”?

I also found the public persona/private persona question Egan raises fascinating. If we reveal all of ourselves in a reality TV/blogging/social networking realm (note that this book was published in 2001, before most of that, except reality TV. I agree with other reviewers and am impressed with Egan’s prescience), when do we stop being “me”? On the flip side, if we keep everything about ourselves a secret and jump to another identity as soon as we begin to make a connection with others, do we have any more control of our identities? In the case of both extremes, we can lose ourselves, in one case belonging to everyone else and in the other belonging to no one because we are invisible.

It’s caused me to wonder if I might want to change the nature of the information I share on my blog and social media. When I share personal feelings and details about my life, am I sharing myself? And if so, am I losing myself in the process?

The other question this book left me with: Do people really have that much sex?

View all my reviews

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