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.
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.
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
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.