cover image Trance


Christopher Sorrentino, . . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26 (516pp) ISBN 978-0-374-27864-9

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 (né 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. (July)