The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

Mike’s review

I didn’t take very good notes for this, so I may as well start with a plot summary: basically a troubled youth who may or may not be schizophrenic (I don’t remember this being said explicitly, but it seemed like it) is implicated in the beating of a police officer. I don’t remember it every being revealed one way or the other whether she actually did the beating. She’s hauled into something of a juvenile detention center. This is the panopticon. The book is an allegory (I think I’m using the right term here) about institutionalization and being watched and how our governments may be out to get us and use us however they see fit. After writing that last sentence, I looked for reinforcements from other reviews and the New York Times says Foucault used the panopticon as a metaphor for capitalism, so look at that, I’m all collegey and whatnot.


So, I suppose the point is Anais feels as though she’s being watched, even though she’s not. It’s a scare tactic. Which is, for the most part, what we have to deal with. Homeland Security probably isn’t listening to me talk to my mom on the phone, but they might be, so I might want to think twice about what I say.


The internet tells me that the panopticon is a fairly well known idea of architecture, never exactly realized, but close. Fagan’s description sounded fairly impossible, which meant I wasn’t scared. And the “inmates” basically do whatever they want. They’re free to roam the city streets during the day. So, I’m not sure why the panopticon is necessary. And there’s only about a dozen inmates ever mentioned, so this looming structure seems silly. A cover with an image of the panopticon could have helped.


I don’t mind the “nae” thing. It’s entirely reasonable to think small linguistic changes will occur in time, but it’s inconsistent and thereby frustrating. It is used in place of contractions, but not only there. It doesn’t replace all negatives. Sometimes it’s “not,” sometimes it’s “nae.” Sometimes “nae” is used to replace something which isn’t even a negative.


“Cock is a good clean word. Pat was a big fan of the word cock. And cunt. She said if two words ever got married, it should be cock and cunt.”


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