Feature

Author of the week

Ben Mezrich

Ben Mezrich has made a fortune packaging made-up narratives as nonfiction, said Drake Bennett in The Boston Globe. Bringing Down the House, his best-seller about a team of MIT students who humble Vegas, was turned into 21, a movie that topped U.S. box-office charts earlier this month. But the success of 21 also renewed interest in Mezrich’s questionable methods. In the book that made his career, he “appears to have worked more as a collage artist” than a nonfiction writer, injecting a few fact-based events into a drama that teems with “characters who never lived” and “scenes that didn’t happen.”

Mezrich remains unapologetic. “The idea that the story is true,” he says, “is more important than being able to prove that it’s true.” Yes, he admits, five of the six major MIT characters in House are composites, and the one real figure never actually smuggled cash through airports using fake umbrellas and hollow crutches. “I took literary license to make it readable,” he says. Mezrich even claims that his new publisher is too careful with facts, said John Gonzalez in Boston magazine. The three “nonfiction” books he’s written since House, he says, were toned down considerably before publication. “When I hand in that first draft [now],” he says, “the editors are much more heavy-handed.”

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