“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” – Oscar Wilde
Hollywood, that seemingly far away magical land, the land of opportunities, the land of many dreams has seen the dreams of many fulfilled but for most of the men and women, young and old who land up on the streets with stars in their eyes, Hollywood has been nothing short of a crash course on dealing with the dark side of life. So for a place that offers success and failure in such large amounts, stories of them, about them too will be in plenty. And this is such a story, it might be a different story, it might even be a difficult story to believe in but even if we choose to believe in them or not, all stories need to be heard for there is a storyteller behind these stories, sharing with us the highs and lows, the glory and the sufferings, teaching us, warning us so that we may learn from them.
Author Patrick Brown’s second novel, ‘Tossed Off the Edge’ is a finely crafted play on the celebrity tell-all format the literary world is abound with. Without revelling in the fact that it is a faux memoir on a non-existent TV star, the author has crafted a fine fictional story based on a fictional lead all the while challenging the reader’s mind to believe in and invest emotionally on this outlandish and part sympathetic mega television figure. Sheila Wozniak is the person behind the persona of the rags to riches story of the starlet; she has invested four decades of her career into playing Regina Knight, the lead and perhaps the most important character in the day time soap opera ‘The Edge of Conflict’. And after an extended reign at the top, when the show’s and her character’s popularity is on the wane, the television studio fires her. But if there is one thing Ms. Wozniak has successfully mastered after all these years is to always land on her feet and the ability to salvage whatever is left of her career and her image in the public arena. She gets an opportunity from a publishing house to pen her memoir and she employs the former head writer from her old TV show, who is also curiously named Patrick Brown. Thus then begins the narration of a wild and crazy story about an aspiring actress’s struggles, her family and the people who have come into contact with her. And whenever Ms. Wozniak’s narration transcends into the absurd and delusional variety, writer Patrick Brown is always close by with an array of finely researched footnotes to keep Sheila Wozniak’s active imagination in check.
In ‘Tossed Off the Edge’ Patrick Brown presents plenty of the nasty behind-the-scenes details of the television world, especially that of day time soap operas and its lead actors. The unreasonable demands of the long serving cast members, the inexplicable story lines churned out by writers, the asinine management by television executives, it’s all there. But don’t get me wrong, it is never presented as to ridicule the format itself, in fact at some levels the author is even kind of in awe of this format and its work ethics. And when you think about it, it is true to a certain extent, when we compare it to the alternatives that are the 24 hour news channels which brings us more depressing news than pleasant ones and the so called un-scripted ‘reality’ television, which is an even bigger farce than anything these soap operas churns out. While it may be fiction, this fiction takes itself very seriously as to adapt many contemporary and socially relevant themes as part of its broadcast.
Tossed Off the Edge not only chronicles the made up show’s rich history, but it also offers an unpretentious and unapologetic insight into the lead character of Regina Knight played by Sheila Wozniak. Now Ms. Wozniak is everything you imagine her to be and some more, she is extremely self centred but surprisingly never gets truly annoying and all her stories have a hint of fantasy about them. Patrick Brown’s imagination is so vivid and yet appears thoroughly researched that by the end of the book you are sure to hit the search engines searching for Sheila Wozniak and a show called ‘The Edge of Conflict.’ Now even though this book has been written as a humorous play on the tell-all celebrity memoirs, there is quite an emotional depth to the story and it really has a surprising tone of sadness and quiet empathy that you will feel towards this made up character. And at other times Patrick seems to be having a whale of a time taking jabs at our idiosyncrasies, hypocrisies and moral values. The footnotes provided serve a dual function, they not only make you read the book twice but they also end up cracking you up with an astonishing regularity.
Tossed Off the Edge is a great excuse to laugh at our many contemporary and contemptible values. And you are bound to fall in love with this character of Sheila Wozniak who is hypocritical and so full of her herself and yet feels so real and like someone you’ve know your entire life. And perhaps this is a reflection on the times we live, because this fake memoir is more fun and real than some of the ‘real’ ones out there in the market today.
Paperback: 196 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (August 28, 2014)