Friday, April 18, 2008

"21" Exaggerations?

4th\SW Quadrant The Approval Matrix

By The Boston Globe

The movie "21," which opened last weekend as the No. 1 box office draw in the nation, is a glossy action-adventure movie that adds sex, violence, and some theatrical high living to the plot of the book on which it is based. But readers of the book, the 2002 nonfiction bestseller "Bringing Down the House," might wonder why any embellishment was necessary.

The original book - "the inside story of six MIT students who took Vegas for millions" by counting cards at the blackjack tables - was juicy enough to spend more than a year on the hardcover and paperback nonfiction best-seller lists. And its runaway success transformed its Boston-based author, Ben Mezrich, into a local celebrity and a one-man publishing brand, a specialist in true tales of egghead kids pulling off acts of lucrative derring-do.

Yet "Bringing Down the House" is not a work of "nonfiction" in any meaningful sense of the word. Instead of describing events as they happened, Mezrich appears to have worked more as a collage artist, drawing some facts from interviews, inventing certain others, and then recombining these into novel scenes that didn't happen and characters who never lived. The result is a crowd-pleasing story, eagerly marketed by his publishers as true - but which several of the students who participated say is embellished beyond recognition."

I don't even know if you want to call the things in there exaggerations, because they're so exaggerated they're basically untrue," said John Chang, an MIT graduate and one of the inspirations for the character Micky Rosa, who in the book is the team's founder and leader.

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