1974: A tiny band of self-styled urban guerrillas, calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army, abducts a newspaper heiress, who then abruptly announces that she has adopted the guerrilla name "Tania" and chosen to remain with her former captors. Has she been brainwashed? Coerced? Could she be sincere? Why would such a nice girl disavow her loving parents, her adoring fiancé, her comfortable home? Why would she suddenly adopt the SLA's cri de coeur, "Death to the Fascist Insect that Preys Upon the Life of the People"? Soon most of the SLA are dead, killed in a suicidal confrontation with police in Los Angeles, forcing Tania and her two remaining comrades--the pompous and abusive General Teko and his duplicitous lieutenant, Yolanda--into hiding, where they will remain for the next sixteen months.
Trance, Christopher Sorrentino's mesmerizing and brilliant second novel, traces this fugitive period, leading the reader on a breathtaking, hilarious, and heartbreaking underground tour across a beleaguered America, in the company of scam artists, visionaries, cultists, and a mismatched gang of middle-class people who typify the guiding conceit of their time, that of self-renovation. Along the way he tells the story of a nation divided against itself--parents and children, men and women, black and white; a story of hidebound tradition and radical change, of truth and propaganda, of cynicism and idealism; a story as transfixing and relevant today as it was then.
Insightful, compassionate, scathingly funny, and moving, Trance is a virtuoso performance, placing Christopher Sorrentino in the first rank of American novelists.
Trance is a 2005 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.
In much the same manner that Don DeLillo's White Noise reimagined the Kennedy assassination, Sorrentino (Sound and Sound) deftly blends history and fiction to make the Symbionese Liberation Army's 1974 kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst as strange, shocking, banal and goofy as it was when it first hit TV. Loosely following actual events, the story of Hearst's abduction (she took the terror name of "Tania," used throughout the book) spills forth in fits and starts, staying mostly faithful to actual characters and events (including the infamous gunshots Hearst fired outside an L.A. sporting goods store), while slipping in and out of the points of view of literally dozens of players. Through the cut-and-paste panoply of perspectives from SLA leader Cinque Mtube (n Donald DeFreeze) to Tania's father, here called Hank Galton Sorrentino offers a moving critique, in a way, of how violent, Baader Meinhof style radicalism failed through its very fierce, postmodern diffuseness. But the formal conceit of mirroring the group's marginalization and disarray within a malfunctioning larger culture doesn't fully come off; the book gets bogged down in competing points of view. Still, Trance is a tour de force, announcing a mature and ambitious talent, one that goes a long way toward capturing the weirdness and stoned fervor of a vital, still-undigested and heavily televised piece of recent American history.