THE LIFE, WORK AND CHRONICLES OF JEFF KOYEN: REFORMED ITINERANT, OCCASIONAL WRITER AND FRIEND TO ALMOST ALL DOGS

Trance: A Novel
By Christopher Sorrentino
I was just five when the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped rich kid Patty Hearst and converted her to their cause by way of sensory deprivation and rape. I was too young to get a crush on the baadasssss "Tania" (nee Patty, renamed for Che's girlfriend), famously photographed with her machine gun; too young for the SLA to become a childhood memory awaiting romanticized retrospection.
Christopher Sorrentino, though, has seven years on me, which may explain this grand, bloated revisiting of the SLA's cultural significance. In the author's note, Sorrentino proudly admits to having "conducted no fieldwork, archival research, or interviews." Rather, the story's "narcotic allure" propels his highly fictionalized account.
If only Sorrentino could make us feel that allure! His rendering of Patty Hearst, herein named Alice Daniels Galton -- yes, Alice, and yes, she's through the looking glass -- isn't unlikable. She's boring. Ditto her comrades. Sorrentino's gallery of rogues isn't so much anti-heroic as it is cardboardic, and his account of their life underground is tediously detailed.
The book is not without its merits. Sorrentino is a careful, thoughtful writer, and his prose can be cute, even compelling. They're mostly one-liners, sunshine peeking through the dark, impenetrable clouds -- pith that's almost enough to carry five long chapters, four interludes and one coda. But not quite. Like a precocious child who won't shut up, the author's cleverness quickly wears thin.
Sorrentino calls Trance an adulteration of history; I call it laziness. An odd statement, I suppose, after reading a 500-plus-page novel -- but still. Anyone can write long; at half the length and with one-tenth the literary pretension, this examination of attempted class warfare could've been an indispensable companion to Dom Delillo's Libra. Instead, it's a would-be "important" work that's probably not worth reading.