Fame & Madness in America
When Brenda Bernstein poisons her husband of four days, little does she know that she is about to set off a media circus the likes of which haven't been seen since O.J. got into a white Ford Bronco.
Brenda becomes an overnight tabloid sensation-and so does everyone she has ever come in contact with, from her grade-school nemesis to her 90-year-old grandmother. As the notoriety of her trial gathers momentum, her erstwhile brother-in-law is courted by reality TV show producers to host their newest dating game show, "Mating After Murder," and her friend Veronica screen-tests for a remake of Body Heat, while the presiding judge at her trial wisely invests in a complete makeover for the benefit of the cameras infesting the courtroom. And let's not forget Brenda's mother, who is so thrilled to see her daughter gracing the cover of Time, she buys all copies of the magazine from her local newsstand.
Told in vignettes from the various important (and not-so-important) players' points of view, Fame & Madness in America (Casperian Books) is a wildly entertaining romp that explores the world of fleeting popularity in a culture that worships celebrities.
Watch Garrett's interview with Connie Martinson: Part 1 and Part 2
Fame & Madness in America - Characters
Quotes from some of the players...
Lead“How did an upscale Jewish girl with a master’s degree, a mortgage and good hair wind up in a dilapidated prison cell with nothing but a bed and a toilet?”
Reporter"Women looked up to Brenda like she was some cherished icon, and guys wanted to see her get the chair. Obviously I was with the guys."
Mother-in-Law"My darling Shawn could've had any girl he wanted, and he chose this middle-class manslayer."
Sister"Fame is the new sex."
Mother"Who could have predicted that four days after the wedding my daughter would wind up at the Forest Hills Correctional Facility for Women?"
Best Friend"One day you're completely unknown, and the next you have a whole week devoted to you on Lifetime."
Brother-In-Law"The bitch murdered my brother. If she couldn't stand him, why didn't she just divorce him? Damn it, I told him to avoid Jewish girls."
Fame & Madness in America - Excerpt
Read Chapter One
Fame & Madness in America - Praise
What people are saying...
In a wry, lucid and deliciously dark tale, Socol delivers a trenchant narrative…told from the viewpoint of seven characters following the murder of a bridegroom by his wife in revenge for his infidelity on the day of their nuptials.Michael Loughrey, Author
Garrett Socol looks benignly on our mucky world and conveys the dark humour of everyday madness.
Fame & Madness in America - Q&A
Click on the questions to read the answers:
It seemed that whenever a scandal took place involving a well-known personality (Tiger Woods, O.J. Simpson, Eliot Spitzer), everyone involved became an overnight celebrity, and many of them tried to milk their 15 minutes of fame. In order to mirror this phenomenon, I came up with a fictional murder. Though it doesn’t involve a celebrity, Brenda Bernstein becomes an overnight star, much to her displeasure. And everyone associated with Brenda becomes famous.
The point is that there’s been a cultural shift in focus from the honorable reasons for fame (great talent, integrity, humanitarianism) to the not-so-honorable. The mistresses of Tiger Woods, the people peripheral to the O.J. Simpson trial, Eliot Spitzer’s prostitute… they have no right to pursue celebrity status. What did they contribute to society? Nothing. Yet they’re household names for all the wrong reasons, and they try to forge careers as television personalities, newspaper columnists, etc.
Rod Blagojevich. When he tried to sell Obama’s Senate seat, then attempted to book himself on “I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here,” he established a disgraceful new low. (He wasn’t allowed to leave the country, so he sent his wife in his place.)
Modeling, acting, hosting of a game show. One character was chosen one of People magazine’s 50 most beautiful. Inspired by real life situations, the book takes them one absurd step further.
To a certain extent, yes. This is what the public is being fed. If the media didn’t cover the stories of these wannabes, we wouldn’t know about them. But because of our 24-hour news coverage, the media grabs almost any celebrity story to fill time. On the other hand, viewers seem to love tawdry stories about sex, celebrities and betrayal, and ratings prove this.
No, the book is satirical and hilarious. We don’t laugh with these characters, we laugh at them. There’s absurdity in a mother being thrilled that her daughter made the cover of Time magazine under the headline “Women Who Kill.” There’s absurdity in a female judge having a beauty makeover for the sake of the cameras. It’s about fame at any price.
I came into contact with quite a few bona fide stars as well as reality-TV stars. I witnessed unknowns becoming overnight celebrities, and celebrities on their way to becoming unknown. The latter tried desperately to get their careers back on track. They pitched themselves for any kind of publicity. It was kind of sad. But in this town, fame is the name of the game.
Absolutely. Some people become famous for their sex tapes, some for merely being related to a star. People become famous for playing themselves on reality-TV: Dina Lohan (mother of Lindsay), “Snooki” from the Jersey Shore, the real housewives of every major city. I still don’t know why the Kardashians are famous. But they rule the airwaves and populate our entertainment magazines ad nauseum. These people have become role models, and frankly that’s a little scary.
No, but I think a good number of us do. I think too many of us do. There are some great perks that come along with fame, and who wouldn’t love to be treated like a star for a while? But I think the normal, well-adjusted among us (like Brenda’s sister in the novel), can see how phony and superficial the concept of celebrity is.
Yes. But my major goal was to make readers laugh out loud.
My first collection of short stories called GATHERED HERE TOGETHER will be released at the end of the year. Some stories deal with serious topics, others share an offbeat sense of humor with FAME & MADNESS IN AMERICA. A young woman composes an actual checklist for those contemplating suicide…A Midwestern dental office becomes a hotbed of lust, betrayal, and illicit flossing…A small town gal throws a bake sale to raise money for her upcoming electroconvulsivetherapy. These are ordinary people in bizarre, extraordinary circumstances. I hope the stories entertain and enlighten.