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More Publishers Think Readers Are Dumb Asses

It’s 90 percent true if you count things that happened to anyone,” he says. “It’s only about half true if you define it as actual things happening to the actual people they happened to.”

So says one of the characters in Ben Mezrich’s book, Bringing Down the House. Bringing Down the House is marketed as the true story of the MIT students who used their brains and complicated communication system to win big in Vegas. While the core of the story is true, the book is fictionalized. It’s just another example of how publishers are willing to deceive the public for profit.

According to the Boston Globe article:

Both Mezrich and the book’s publisher, Simon and Schuster’s Free Press, see nothing to apologize for. The book, they point out, was published with a disclaimer (in fine print, on the copyright page) warning that the names, locations, and other details had been changed, and that some events and individuals are composites, created from other events and individuals. Nearly all the details and facts in the book were culled from his research, Mezrich says, and where they were compressed or creatively rearranged, the fundamental truth of the story he tells is undiminished.

“Every word on the page isn’t supposed to be fact-checkable,” Mezrich said. Most readers and writers, he said, have no problem with that.

If you read the article, the idea is the only “true” thing about the Mezrich book. Most of the action scenes, drama and even characterization are fictional. Other Mezrich books, also sold as dramatic non fiction, are full of dramatizations.

I, for one, don’t like being deceived. If it is a dramatization, it should say so and it should not be marketed as non-fiction. It’s clear to me that it is marketed as non-fiction to take advantage of higher sales for a false premise, just like when non-romance books are falsely labeled and marketed as romances. Law and Order episodes might be “ripped from the headlines” but it’s a drama not a reality tv show and not marketed as one.

Via Wonkette.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Robin
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 00:31:15

    If it really wasn’t a big deal, publishers would stamp “fiction” on the spine. But they know it makes a difference, exploit that difference, and then dismiss it as nothing, when their actions belie that dismissal. I wish I could say it’s unbelievable, but it’s not to me. When I wrote about this topic at Readers Gab, as it relates to the Frey and Jones books, JMC made a really good point:

    Ultimately, for me, the fictionalized memoir (be it Frey's or Jones's) damages the credibility of the author. If I cannot rely upon an author to tell the truth about her/his own life and/or memories, how can I rely upon that author's integrity or honesty when it comes to their other work?

    When you have the publisher not only complicit but actively perpetrating the this, the implications exponentially multiply, IMO.

  2. MB
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 06:28:18

    Since I saw the book being advertised during an episode of Breaking Vegas on the Biography Channel, I figured it was “faction” to begin with since the show told you flat out the names and places were changed to protect the students identities. Since so many readers will buy and enjoy these “faction” books, the publishers will keep putting them out for sale the same as always. It’s just the nature of the game.

  3. azteclady
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 07:54:21

    Makes you wonder at those disclaimers of ignorance and innocence by ‘duped’ publishers when they claim they didn’t know that this or that memoir was 100% BS, no?

  4. katiebabs
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 07:54:24

    Even Oprah can be fooled and I would assume she would have a staff of fact-checkers.

    Whatever happened to James Frey? Is he still writing and getting his six figure check?

  5. Ann Bruce
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 08:51:01

    Whatever happened to James Frey? Is he still writing and getting his six figure check?

    He has a new book coming out. Pre-sales, unfortunately, are very, very good.

  6. Ann Bruce
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 08:53:17

    Is the movie 21 based on this book?

  7. Jane
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 08:59:08

    Yes, Ann, it is. Which is why more and more publishers will engage in this deceit – it is monetarily so successful.

  8. janicu
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 09:26:23

    I find it baffling that he thinks the “fundamental truth is undiminished”. That gets me the most.

  9. Kalen Hughes
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 09:37:19

    *faction* love that term.

  10. MB
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 12:31:33

    It came out of academia, I believe. Faction – the melding of fact and fiction sold as pure fiction. A lot of those “based on real events” shows are considered “factional dramas.”

  11. joe
    Apr 09, 2008 @ 19:42:09

    It is beyond ridiculous to try and equate a work of narrative non-fiction that relies on composite characters used to hide identities with a made up memoir. And why would you take Drake Bennett’s article any more seriously in terms of the truth than you would Mezrich’s book? Bennett’s article is rife with errors; he blasts mezrich for claiming that the MIT kids smuggled money in hollowed out casts and laptop computers, when there’s nothing like that in the book. He talked to a bunch of MIT kids who weren’t on the team that Jeff Ma played with, who are trying to get famous off of the movie, and took their word as gospel. Then he tried to make a name for himself as a journalist by trashing a much more successful writer. It’s sad to watch the jackals trying to take down a book in their own quest for fame, without fact checking their own sources. But such is the pathetic world of the bloggers.

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