Apr 8 2008
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.