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7/15/2009
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Facebook -- The Book -- Comes Under Fire

Author Ben Mezrich's " true story" about the founding of the social networking Web site is drawing criticism -- and Hollywood interest.

A book that claims to capture the founding of Facebook -- one of the world’s largest social networks -- hit bookstores this week and is already being attacked by critics as more fiction than fact.

The Accidental Billionaires -- The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich has been called “a tawdry mishmash” by Businessweek.

Mezrich admits that he re-created dialog and scenes for the book and was unable to talk to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO. His preface, warning that "liberties are about to be taken" elicits a Bloomberg reviewer to remark, that the author is "simply making stuff up."

"Ben Mezrich clearly aspires to be the Jackie Collins or Danielle Steele of Silicon Valley, Facebook spokesman Elliot Schrage told Reuters.

Mezrich spoke with Eduardo Saverin, a Harvard classmate of Zuckerberg’s and Facebook’s first CEO. Zuckerberg and Saverin are now suing each other over finances, according to published reports and Zuckerberg chose to cooperate with Fortune writer David Kirkpatrick on a different book about Facebook.

But Mezrich said he relies on commonly accepted reporting techniques -- interviews, documents, piecing a story together -- and his style upsets some journalists. Some of his previous books have suffered similar criticisms. “My style is this sort of immersion journalism, where I go inside the story and built it as a thriller, as a narrative,” Mezrich told Time Magazine. “There are a lot of journalists who don't get what I do. They don't understand my style or they're frustrated by it. And sometimes they're quite angry about it, which is funny. I re-create the story. It's a true story. It's non-fiction.”

Mezrich’s book has already been optioned for a movie and was praised on Amazon by actor Kevin Spacey, who produced and starred in a film of one of Mezrich’s previous books, Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions.

The Accidental Billionaires is…pure summer fun -- a juicy, fast-paced, unputdownable Mezrich tale that adds to his canon of lad lit. And Hollywood has come calling again,” Spacy wrote. “I'm currently working with Dana Brunetti, Scott Rudin, Mike Deluca, and Aaron Sorkin on the movie adaptation of The Accidental Billionaires. If the book is any indication, the film is going to be a must see.”

On Wednesday, The Accidental Billionaires was number 99 on Amazon’s list of top 100 sellers.


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