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Trance: A Novelby Christopher Sorrentino
"Much of Trance works this way: Its characters struggle to hold onto some sense of their historic significance but get lost in quotidian details, like shopping or marital jealousy or an urgent need to defecate. Then the landscape or the vapid media commentary or the book itself intervenes to explain the grand outlines. You either go with this sort of thing or you don't; it's both the strength of Trance and its weakness." Andrew O'Hehir (read the entire Salon.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
Nineteen seventy-four: 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.
"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. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[M]asterfully omniscient and suspenseful....
"Like Don Delillo in Libra and Philip Roth in American Pastoral, Christopher Sorrentino has opened the pages of his fiction to the breadth of collective memory, and the result is one of the most humane and haunting novels I've read in years. It's also the funniest and most incisive evocation of the world I knew and lived through in the 1970's, a world which haunts and informs every part of the cultural landscape we're suffering today, no matter how desperately we try to decant that era through pity or nostalgia....Christopher Sorrentino's Trance will be placed on the very highest shelf of that art which explains the 20th Century to the 21st." Jonathan Lethem, bestselling author of Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude
"This is a great novel, and the trance of its title is not just the collective delusion of a particular cultural moment but the mesmerizing force of its writing. Playful, scathing, gripping and profound, this book is a meditation and a provocation, full of humor and menace. Sorrentino has broken new ground at the border of fiction and history." Sam Lipsyte, author of The Subject Steve and Home Land
"Trance is a work of startling insight, marvelously and masterfully evoking the grim stuff of true American nightmares." Colson Whitehead, author of John Henry Days
"An ambitious, intelligent, and kaleidoscopically opulent book, remarkably evocative of the textures and tones of the '70s. Sorrentino has a talent for creating authentic, microscopic moments that capture the spirit of an era." Lydia Millet, author of George Bush, Dark Prince of Love
"In many ways, [Sorrentino's] vision here is kaleidoscopic, eliding fluidly from individual to individual, taking on a wide array of points of view. That allows us to inhabit even the least sympathetic figures and see things through their eyes." Newsday
"Sorrentino is an insightful, sensitive writer who makes you believe you're seeing what he's describing. He also seems to enjoy writing, and conveys his enthusiasm to the reader." Baltimore Sun
"Sorrentino gives us a new understanding of our past and future, and a fresh way to consider the ideological movements that can appear so confident in their control or resistance." Minneapolis Star Tribune
Sorrentino's second novel traces the Symbionese Liberation Army in the mid-'70s, 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.
2005 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction
A Los Angeles Times Book Review Favorite Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Novel of the Year
It is 1974 and a tiny band of self-styled urban guerrillas, calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), abducts a newspaper heiress, who then takes the guerrilla name"Tania" and shocks the world by choosing to remain with her former captors. 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. These are the months of Tania's sentimental education.
About the Author
Christopher Sorrentino is the author of a previous novel, Sound on Sound. He has contributed fiction, essays, and criticism to The Baffler, Bookforum, Conjunctions, Fence, and McSweeney's, among other publications and is a contributor to Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers: Writers on Comics. He lives in Brooklyn.
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