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Trance: A Novel Hardcover – June 16, 2005

3.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (July 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374278644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374278649
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,387,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Anne Endres on August 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Trance is a vividly imagined, brilliantly written, darkly intelligent, and devastatingly satirical examination of the dissipation of 60's values and the commencement of the Me-First era of the 70's that carries forward until the present day. An epic book, Trance carries very little fat on its frame. Each sentence is packed with an unforgettably vivid image, each page shimmers with revelation. Despite what the Washington Post review reprinted here says, I found the numerous characters to be explored with depth, complexity, and occasionally surprising empathy.

Despite its length, Trance is a page-turner, too, with edge-of-the-seat scenes of suspense and the compelling detail of a police procedural. And yet this is a highly adventurous work of art as well, with its surprises (shifts in tense and point of view, highly cinematic renderings of certain scenes, entertainingly digressive set-pieces, intertextual and popcultural references, subtle typographic play) integrated into the text so expertly one hardly notices the "experimental."

At the end, the reader realizes that the story of "Patty Hearst" (Alice Galton, in this version) is a mere pretext on which Sorrentino drapes this narrative coat of many colors, a device through which he depicts and satirizes the seismic disturbances upsetting American culture during the 70's, the bankruptcy of cheap revolutionary rhetoric, the meaning and depth of identity itself.

Trance is a masterpiece, powerful and exuberant and beautiful.
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Format: Hardcover
Calling this a book about the Patty Hearst kidnapping is like calling Moby Dick a book about life aboard a whaling ship or Gravity's Rainbow a book about rocket science. Is Trance in a league with these masterpieces? Not quite, but it is the best novel I've read this year.

The book opens with "Tania", freshly converted to the Symbionese cause, firing upon a L.A. sporting goods owner who is trying to corral her two comrades for a petty shoplifting incident. This shooting tragically leads to the deaths of the other members of the Symbionese Liberation Army in a fire fight with police and Tania and the other two survivors go underground in what is now known as "The Missing Year". As people who saw the documentary "Guerilla" know, the missing year is a big hole in the known record. Sorrentino fills that gap with creative enthusiasm and style.

Trance contains a number of scenes that make it a slightly surreal, weirdly funny, cinematic, and always gripping read, as well as being extremely intelligent and perceptive. There's an incredible shoot-out sequence in the first chapter after a long and suspenseful build up. There's an autopsy scene that brings home the reality of the death these young radicals always spoke of so easily. There are the thoughts of Tania's mother and father as they puzzle over their daughter's betrayal of them and their class. There is an exploration of how radical ideas could infect some very normal young kids from middle class backgrounds. There is a well-paced and interesting look at the methodical efforts of the FBI in finding Tania and the rest of the SLA. On this level the book is satisfying in a very straightforward way.
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Format: Hardcover
I was excited to pick up a fictionalized account of Patty Hearst and her time with the SLA. I didn't live through that time period, and I have only a fringe knowledge of the events, but what a gripping premise, right?

Wrong. I think this book is only a winner for SLA/Hearst-ophiles who can put the story in a larger context. It does not stand on its own at all. It is told from way too many points of view, and it takes tremendous concentration in the beginning of the book to remember all these characters and figure out why each one of them is narrating. I got bogged down in the switching-around and wanted the action to get started.

Other reviewers have talked about the beautifully developed characters and scenes. I had the opposite reaction to the long inner dialogues and descriptive passages--I wanted Sorrentino to get along with the action already.
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Format: Hardcover
Trance - a novel that talks fact with a fiction and lot of imagination in itself. Each page in itself is filled with reading ecstasy and involves reader into it.

Trance is story about kidnapping and is narrated with perfection.
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Format: Hardcover
Say, like me, you're an oncologist with a thriving practice and a loving husband. Still, there's something missing from your life. It's called art. That's what's missing from your life. The art of literary art. Tragedy, comedy, pathos, bathos, the whole shebang. Okay, I took a lit gut at Rutgers and I may not know exactly what I'm talking about, but I do know this: art transcends. I can cut a man open and remove his pancreas, but I have no clue what he's thinking. Sorrentino does. He knows what people are thinking, and with his powerful writing he slings us (the reader, the doctor) over his shoulder and together we scale the ladder of storytelling glory. To call this a book about Patty Hearst is to call Crime and Punishment a book about crime, or punishment. 'Nuff said. Read, weep. Change your life. Find a lump. Call me.
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