August 12, 2009

BOOKS: The Accidental Billionaires, Ben Mezrich (2009)

The story of the creation of Facebook. Sort of.

Mezrich calls this a "dramatic, narrative account," a phrase which he apparently thinks allows him to get away with all sorts of stuff that doesn't really fall under the usual definitions of nonfiction or journalism.

He acknowledges that he has "changed or imagined" the settings and descriptions of various scenes, changed details about some of the people in his narrative, and "re-created and compressed" dialogue. Mezrich was unable to interview Mark Zuckerberg, one of the central players in the story, but that does not stop him from writing entire chapters in which he describes Zuckerberg's actions and thoughts at times when no one else was present who might have given Mezrich such information. (Given Zuckerberg's refusal to be interviewed for this book, it is no surprise that he is made the villain, and that Eduardo Saverin, who was interviewed, is portrayed as Zuckerberg's victim.)

In short, Mezrich admits that he's making a lot of shit up.

The story of Facebook is probably an interesting one, based on what we can tell from Mezrich's creative imagining of events. But this version of the story is so clearly slanted, and so filled with Mezrich's fantasies about what might have happened, that it's useless to consider it as anything other than cheap fiction, and not very entertaining fiction at that.

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