09 April 2008

Filmbook Update: Oh, for the love of fact-checking.

Remember how I was looking forward to reading BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE and seeing the movie "21"? Guess what is the latest nonfiction book whose authenticity is being called into question:

Mezrich openly admitted that five of the six main characters from HOUSE are not real at all but amalgams of two decades worth of blackjack teams. And who knows whether to trust him even on that, given that he appears to have outright invented other book elements.

The one character in Mezrich's book who is not a composite, the team leader, is portrayed teaching at MIT, which he never did...

[William Morrow, who published my edition of the book] is marketing supposed nonfiction from Mezrich that includes, buried at the end of the author's note, a disclaimer "that warns readers about changed names, compressed time periods, and altered identities and backgrounds. Certain characters, it goes on, 'are not meant to portray particular people.'"

One MIT graduate contacted by the Boston Globe, who basically eviscerated the book's basis in fact, told the reporter "I don't even know if you want to call the things in there exaggerations, because they're so exaggerated they're basically untrue." And I was a sucker and bought it. I'm not sure if I want to see this movie any more.

So what is the more egregious way to discard your integrity: Inventing a more exciting life for yourself, or inventing a more exciting life for other people?

1 comment:

Jess said...

That is a tough question. I think it is worse to mess with other people. But on the other hand if you make people up and pretend they existed, you aren't hurting anyone real. So I don't know.