From Publishers Weekly
In much the same manner that Don DeLillo's Libra reimagined the Kennedy assassination, Sorrentino (Sound on 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)
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*Starred Review* Newspaper heiress Patty Hearst's 1974 kidnapping and indoctrination by the Symbionese Liberation Army has become a touchstone in American culture. Curious about what went on in the twisted minds of those involved, Sorrentino fictionalizes the entire notorious episode, imagining a kidnapped rich girl named Alice and her icy mother and humbled father in a masterfully omniscient and suspenseful novel. Braiding history with invention, devilish humor with psychological veracity, telling detail with a big-picture perspective, bursts of rapid dialogue with gorgeous description and arresting inner monologues, Sorrentino satirizes with a light yet penetrating touch the inanity of the SLA's rhetoric, the stupidity of their murderous violence, the frenzy of the press, and the dysfunctions of Alice's keepers. Sorrentino's take on the terror and tedium of fugitive life and Alice's response to becoming a cultural icon is fresh and incisive, and his evoking of a context that encompasses Japanese American internment camps, Hiroshima, Vietnam, the Black Panthers, women's liberation, and Watergate is right on. But for all the shrewdness of his social critique, the primary allure of this big, streaming novel is Sorrentino's fluency in the contradictory messages of heart and mind, the divide between thought and action, and the shock of unintended consequences. See the adjacent Read-alikes column for other books about activists turned terrorists. Donna Seaman
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