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Books-Into-Movies: “Secretariat” (based on the book SECRETARIAT) December 10, 2011

Posted by rwf1954 in book synopsis, books, books compared to movies, books into movies, Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Lucien Lauren, movie commentary, movies, movies based on books, Penny Tweedy, Secretariat, William Nack.
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(Richard Warren Field wrote the award-winning novel,
The Swords of Faith. Read why this book will make a great movie.)

(This is a post from a blog I discontinued last year, “Books Into Movies.” This was first posted at that blog on October 15, 2010.)

“Secretariat” (Movie Release Date: October 8, 2010)

Based on the book Secretariat, written by William Nack, first published in 1975 under the title Big Red of the Meadow Stable, recent edition offered in 2010 with a new preface and an article at the end about Secretariat’s death.

The Movie: “Secretariat” the movie is a wonderfully crafted visual representation of William Nack’s book. There are deviations from the book, to heighten drama and for time efficiency. But the movie is generally faithful to the book, and the races themselves are spot-on with the book, offered with stunning, riveting thunder and motion.

The story starts in Denver with Helen “Penny” Chenery Tweedy learning about the death of her mother. This is the perfect place to begin the story, as it begins Penny Tweedy’s direct involvement with horse racing and the Chenery stable, known as “the Meadow.” The other background information at the outset of Nack’s book comes in with less detail, leaking in clips as the story moves forward.

The family scenes, with the daughter involved with the protests-politics of the 1960s/early 70s are not in the book. Penny Tweedy’s family gets a great deal more prominence in the movie than in the book. Little dramas like the daughters wanting to go to Chile, and Penny Tweedy missing her daughter’s play, are not in the book.

The secretary of the Meadow, Elizabeth Hamm, does name the horse (and much earlier in Secretariat’s life than in the movie), but her role as confidante and moral support for Penny Tweedy is not featured in the book, though there are references to her sitting with Penny Tweedy at races. Bull Hancock and his son Seth are very much represented as they were in the book. Bull Hancock also serves to symbolize the help Penny Tweedy apparently got from a number of seasoned race horse professionals as she took on more responsibility at the Chenery’s stable.

The movie portrays more conflict over whether or not to sell the Meadow, and instead of a sister and a brother, in the movie, Penny Tweedy has only a brother. As I mentioned in my summary of the book, the conflict over selling off the Meadow seemed mild to me as described in the book.

Lucien Laurin’s joining of the Chenery stable is simplified and dramatically sharpened for the movie. Nothing is mentioned in the movie about his son’s tenure at the Chenery stable before Lucien Laurin’s arrival. In fact, the horse Riva Ridge is never mentioned, a horse than won two legs of the Triple Crown the year before Secretariat’s run, and no mention is made that Laurin was training other horses, including Angle Light, the horse who beats Secretariat at the Wood Memorial, just before the Kentucky Derby. Penny Tweedy’s dismissal of a dishonest trainer is not in the book, though the episode serves to show her taking charge at the farm. Lucien Laurin is an interim hire at first—he is not sought and hired in the dramatic fashion depicted in the movie.

The coin toss, and how Penny Tweedy “lost” the toss to end up with Secretariat, is a wonderfully ironic story, and pretty much consistent with the book, with some dramatic flourishes added for the screen, with a ceremony and dramatic motion of the coin.

The book points out that Penny Tweedy is not immediately keen on Secretariat, though he is a striking horse from birth. She believes he detracts from the achievements of Riva Ridge. The movie portrays an instant connection between them.

Secretariat’s first race, with his fourth place finish, is true to the book. (All the race details are consistent with what is documented in the book.)

Ron Turcotte is brought in as jockey a little less dramatically than in the movie. Jockeys ride more than one horse, which is not clear in the movie. Secretariat is just a two year old with possibilities at the time of his first race, and Ron Turcotte is a big name jockey.

Secretariat’s tendency to run from the back, and his apparent posing and seeming to understand when it was race day are directly from the book. And he wins Horse of the Year, as announced in the movie by Ronnie Turcotte as he comes into a restaurant with the headline on his newspaper.

There are a few scenes before the Triple Crown year that are fun but not portrayed in the book:

  • The groom, secretary, trainer and Penny Tweedy dancing as they clean/groom the horse.
  • The horse peeing on a reporter as a he asks a question that is critical of the horse.

C.T. Chenery’s death, and the tax problems of the Meadow as a result are straight from the book. The drama of the situation is heightened and the film portrays more conflict among family members than I remember from the book. There is nothing like Penny Tweedy’s husband and brother teaming up against her. At this point, Bull Hancock has passed away (though in the book, his death is not linked with C.T. Chenery’s), leaving his son Seth to attempt the syndication of the breeding rights to Secretariat. The movie implies this is unusual. What was unusual was not the concept of the syndication of breeding rights, but the huge amount of money requested for each share. Seth Hancock handles this by himself, not with Penny Tweedy and secretary Elizabeth Hamm in a team effort. And though there are a few hesitations and refusals at the beginning, Seth Hancock is on his way to completing the syndication of the breeding rights successfully by the end of the first day. There is an offer to buy the horse’s breeding rights by an Irish firm. But the book does not indicate an offer by Ogden Phipps to buy Secretariat for eight million dollars. In the book, it is Seth Hancock who convinces Ogden Phipps to buy a share of Secretariat’s breeding rights.

Though some of the brashness and bravado appears to be sharpened for the movie, the arrival of Sham as a rival to Secretariat, and the confidence of his trainer, are also in the book.

At the Wood Memorial, Penny Tweedy seems troubled about Secretariat before he runs (instead of the jockey, as in the book). The movie goes into the abscess with a slight variation on who knows what at what point. Frankly, the movie’s sequence of events almost makes more sense. Sometimes fiction exists to make sense out of reality. This may be one of those times. As I read the book, I wondered why the groom and the vet, who knew about the abscess before the race, didn’t say anything to the trainer/jockey/owner! The idea that “Red” only allowed Penny Tweedy near his mouth does not appear in the book.

In the book, the abscess clears well before the Kentucky Derby. Secretariat’s workouts improve, and jockey Turcotte is confident about the race. The movie has uncertainty about the abscess right up to the Kentucky Derby, with Lucien Laurin actually considering pulling Secretariat.

The racing sequences are a stunning achievement of the movie, and are absolutely consistent with the book. The film-makers resist the temptation to have “photo-finishes,” close finishes, to ramp up excitement. And the way the races are filmed, the excitement is there without “photo-finishes.” The finishes are shown the way they are portrayed in the book. The Kentucky Derby—we are there with the turf pounding, and the hooves churning up the track. This is a movie that is best seen in a theater with big-screen sounds and visuals for the full effect. At the Preakness, we cut to the family in Colorado and see the race from their point-of-view. But the race results are still consistent with the book.

Secretariat’s incredible domination of the Belmont is completely faithful to the book, from the head-to-head race with Sham at the beginning, to Secretariat’s phenomenal finish. In the book, we learn that Ron Turcotte ran Secretariat as fast as he did because the horse was running so easily. He did not know he was shattering records until the very end, or that people in the stands were concerned that he was running Secretariat too hard. He lets the horse run his pace, a pace that just happens to be an exceptional, world-beating pace. Sham is the one who falls back—to last, another fun detail not as clear in the movie.

The end information, telling us where everyone ends up, follows the book with one major exception. Penny Tweedy’s marriage breaks up in 1974. The only comment in the movie is that she goes back to Colorado and lives happily ever after. I think the filmmakers want us to feel that Penny Tweedy’s husband accepted his wife’s accomplishments. And maybe he did. But they had grown apart, and sadly, their marriage was a casualty of the events of this inspirational story about an exceptional racehorse.

______

As I have stated in the “about” section of this blog, it is not my intention to do movie or book reviews here—just comparisons. But I have to say that this film was a joy to watch, with excellent choices to maintain the basic shape of the story in the book while heightening the drama for entertainment value. The pure spectacle of the racing scenes adds to the experience. I would not be surprised to see Oscar nominations for this movie next year, for some of the technical work on the film, as well as acting nominations for Diane Lane and John Malkovich.

_______

The Book: Secretariat is a comprehensive chronicle of the story of the celebrated Triple Crown winning racehorse, Secretariat. The book goes into some ups and downs of the story, but given that at birth, the horse already seemed exceptional, we wonder what sort of drama and conflict is available. As is my custom, I will do a brief synopsis of this 455 page (paperback edition) of this book. But before I do, I will mention some possible stress points that appeared, but seemed to evaporate:

  • Helen “Penny” Chenery Tweedy takes over “the Meadow” when her father becomes incapacitated at the end of his life. She is inexperienced in the horse racing business. But she makes friends and gets help from other established horse-racing professionals.
  • At first, it appears the other Tweedy siblings (a sister and a brother) may want to sell the Meadow. But this never becomes a serious issue, especially with the success of the horse Riva Ridge and of course, the following year, Secretariat.
  • Penny Tweedy’s marriage is strained by her transformation from subordinate housewife to racing stable operator. But the tensions in the marriage also seem to remain in the background. At the end, we find out the marriage breaks up in 1974, but these tensions offer little intrusion into the story.
  • Penny Tweedy’s young trainer leaves for another job, and needs to be replaced. The young trainer suggests his father, a man Penny Tweedy has doubts she can work with. He is hired on an interim basis, but quickly works out well—Lucien Laurin is set to complete the training tasks of his career at the Tweedy stable.
  • When C.T. Chenery dies, a huge estate tax looms. But the problem is solved by syndicating the breeding rights to Secretariat.

So we will see how the filmmakers generate the conflict and drama expected to sustain interest in a major motion picture. I will say, that the way Secretariat ran from the rear to win many of his races, the drama of the races and the meaning of success for the likable handlers of Secretariat, may be enough.

_______

Nack goes back to the Civil War to discuss the history of the stables involved with Secretariat. He goes back a number of generations to discuss the pedigree of Secretariat. Various racing personalities, peripheral to the main story, are also profiled with background information.

Penny Tweedy loses a coin toss that ironically gives the Chenery stable the product of the mating of Bold Ruler with the Chenery stable mare Somethingroyal; that horse would be Secretariat, born in late 1970.

As Secretariat grows during his early months, Riva Ridge from the Chenery stable is having a great season, and absorbs the focus of attention from Penny Tweedy and trainer Lucien Laurin.

In early 1972, Secretariat is already growing into “an aesthetic marvel of anatomical slopes and bulges, curves and planes…” Jockey Ron Turcotte recalls him as a “big likable fellow,” and Secretariat becomes the most popular of the “baby two year olds” with the “exercise boys and jockeys.” But there isn’t a lot of excitement about Secretariat immediately as he is outraced during workouts.

April 1, 1972, Turcotte senses a “change in Secretariat.” The big red horse completes a particularly fast workout. He is “learning how to run.”

Jimmy Gaffney, “an exercise boy” for the Meadow/Chenery stable is one of the first to laud the potential of Secretariat. As Secretariat begins to experience more serious workouts in May, Riva Ridge fails to win the Preakness after previously winning the Kentucky Derby. Riva Ridge does win the Belmont Stakes in June, taking two thirds of the Triple Crown.

On July 4, 1972, Secretariat enters his first race. He finishes fourth, getting boxed in, and though demonstrating more speed than the other horses in the race, he is unable to breakout of the pack and take the lead. Secretariat wins his next race, and some begin to see his potential. Trainer Lucien Laurin wants jockey Ron Turcotte to start riding Secretariat as soon as possible because he “might be a stakes horse.”

Penny Tweedy resents Secretariat at first because he detracts from the attention she thinks should be given to Riva Ridge. But as 1972 moves forward, and Secretariat’s potential; becomes more evident, and as Riva Ridge peaks and begins to decline, Secretariat’s stock at the Chenery stable rises. Secretariat wins races later in the year, establishing a pattern of running from behind and overtaking his opponents at the end. His victories gain him more and more recognition. Secretariat ends up voted as 1972 Horse of the Year, a nearly unheard of honor for a two-year-old, identifying him as a strong Triple Crown contender for 1973.

C.T. Chenery dies in January of 1973. Huge estate taxes threaten the existence of the Chenery stable. The family considers a number of options, including selling some of their horses. They decide to syndicate shares in Secretariat’s breeding rights—32 shares with 4 retained by the Chenery stable. Nack goes into great detail about the syndication process. The process is a success; the money is raised. Secretariat will race during 1973, and try to win the Triple Crown. After that, he will become an expensive stud horse. There is also a brief flirtation with selling Secretariat to a firm in Ireland, but this never seems serious.

Nack details the races leading up to the Triple Crown races later in 1973. Secretariat wins the first race, the Bay Shore on March 17th, again by coming from behind. Secretariat seems to be racing at the same level as he was in late 1972.

Secretariat’s build-up grows as the Kentucky Derby approaches. He is a larger than the legendary race horse, Man o’ War. Secretariat’s admirers include the legendary Eddie Arcaro.

At the next race, Lucien Laurin wants to try getting Secretariat to run from the front, in case he needs that strategy to win a future Triple Crown race. Secretariat wins the race, tying the track record.

Secretariat appears to be unbeatable. At this point, Nack gives details about Sham, a horse from out west, a possible rival for Secretariat. Pancho Martin is the trainer; Laffit Pincay Jr. is the jockey. The two horses will meet head to head at the Wood Memorial.

But Secretariat develops an abscess inside the upper lip of his mouth, a condition the groom and the veterinarian are aware of, but for some unspecified reason, no one tells the trainer or the jockey. Secretariat does not seem himself as the race approaches. During the race, he will not take the bit, and a horse named Angle Light finishes first, with Sham finishing second, ahead of Secretariat in third. Recriminations and doubts crop up after the race. Ron Turcotte tries to explain that the horse just wasn’t himself. When Turcotte finally hears about the abscess, he understands exactly what went wrong, and makes sure the abscess is treated. The condition is alleviated a few days after the race. Other tensions surface as Angle Light was also trained by Lucien Laurin.

The Wood Memorial result creates some drama for the Kentucky Derby. Sham’s handlers think Sham can win. Some wonder if Secretariat has been over-hyped. Jimmy the Greek, the famous sports gambler, broadcasts speculation that Secretariat is getting ice packs applied to his knees.

Lucien Laurin gives his instructions to Ronnie Turcotte—keep the horse clear so his incredible finishing speed does not get bottled up. Turcotte senses Secretariat is himself again. He is taking the bit, the way he did before the abscess. Secretariat wins the Kentucky Derby by two and a half lengths, setting a new record. Sham finishes second, also with a time better than the old record, but second that day.

Secretariat seems ready for the Preakness. Sham’s handlers still believe he can beat Secretariat and will win the Preakness. Expectations are again high for Secretariat, that he will be the Triple Crown winner and set new records in the process. Secretariat now not only seems to be a superior racer, but moves with a “kind of flourish,” with a charisma. Secretariat wins again, dramatically, coming from behind. Sham is again second. A slow track prevents another record run.

The Belmont Stakes is the longest of the Triple Crown races. Expectations continue to increase for Secretariat. The Belmont seems to be more of a “coronation” than a race. Secretariat gets representation from the William Morris Agency for uses of his image and the rights to his story. Secretariat’s training for the Belmont is going particularly well. Lucien Laurin decides that in this race, Secretariat should not run from the back. There have been questions as to whether Secretariat will have the stamina to win the race, based on his bloodline. The Bold Ruler bloodline has lacked stamina in the past. Sham’s handlers are also determined to set the pace, take the lead, and finally defeat Secretariat.

Secretariat breaks to the front, and he and Sham battle for the lead. The pace is scary fast, creating some anxious moments. Ronnie Turcotte doesn’t know about the absurdly low times the horses are putting up for the early splits. He just knows the horse is running easily, and he senses Sham is working very hard to keep pace. Secretariat and Sham pull away from the field. Sham wears out, and ends up finishing last. Secretariat pulls away from all the horses in the race, finishing thirty-one lengths ahead of the second place horse—an astonishing achievement in horse racing history. He shatters the course record.

In the Epilogue, Nack summarizes the final races of Secretariat’s racing career. He loses two of them. But his legend is established, and his new role as stud begins in 1974. He sires successful racehorses and brood mares, though none approach his successes on the track. Secretariat finishes with winnings of $1,316,808, fourth all time, though he only races for two years.

The book finishes with a 1989 article about Secretariat’s death. Secretariat contracts laminitis, a painful hoof disease that can be fatal. Secretariat is unable to recover from the disease, and to end his suffering, the horse is given a fatal does of barbiturates.

Secretariat

Secretariat

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Books-Into-Movies: “The Social Network” (based on the book THE ACCIDENTAL MILLIONAIRES) December 8, 2011

Posted by rwf1954 in Accidental Millionaires, Ben Mezrich, book synopsis, books, books compared to movies, books into movies, Facebook, Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Mark Zuckerberg, movie commentary, movies, movies based on books, Sean Parker, Social Network.
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(Richard Warren Field wrote the award-winning novel,
The Swords of Faith. Read why this book will make a great movie.)

(This is a post from a blog I discontinued last year, “Books Into Movies.” This was first posted at that blog on October 15, 2010.)

“The Social Network” (Movie Release Date: October 1, 2010)

Based on the book The Accidental Millionaires, written by Ben Mezrich, published 2009.

The Movie: “Social Network” starts off with frenetic dialogue between Mark Zuckerberg and a girlfriend who is breaking up with him. This scene captures Zuckerberg’s intelligence and nerdy arrogance. Story information is also offered here, at that frenetic pace, including how Eduardo Saverin made $300,000 by investing based on his study of weather patterns. The scene starts the movie off with a jolt into Zuckerberg’s world. This opening scene differs from the book in material ways:

  • Zuckerberg has no girlfriend at the outset of The Accidental Millionaires. He starts FaceMash after an undetailed “frustrating evening.” All the drama concerning the girlfriend, including the final scene with Zuckerberg trying to add her as a Facebook friend, was not in the book
  • Zuckerberg is often depicted in the book as a distant person, offering one word answers during conversations. The clever word patter of Zuckerberg in the film is not evident in the book. (In fairness to the filmmakers, the Zuckerberg presented in the movie is more interesting and fun to watch than the Zuckerberg in the book, and the dialogue captures the essence of the character, if not his speech patterns.)

The book also starts out with Eduardo Saverin courted by the Phoenix club. But I never got the idea from the book that Zuckerberg cared that much about the Harvard social clubs.

In the movie, Eduardo Saverin provides an algorithim Mark Zuckerberg needs to launch FaceMash. In the book, Zuckerberg launches it on his own.

None of the legal scenes—the depositions, lawyers’ questions, interactions with the pretty young female associate and Zuckerberg—none of these scenes are in the book. These are used as efficient devices to supply narrative information about the story not easily conveyed through real-time action without bogging down a visual medium. I do wonder if the filmmakers wanted to bring a little justice to the story, ending with an emotionally conflicted Zuckerberg trying to friend his old girlfriend at the end of the movie. I did not sense any sort of emotional remorse from Zuckerberg in the book.

FaceMash brings Zuckerberg to the attention of Divya Narendra and the Winklevoss twins as in the book. Some of the meeting logistics are different in the movie. And through the use of the deposition scenes, we do get the idea that an email trail proves Zuckerberg led the Winklevoss-Narendra partnership on without definitively opting out of their offer to partner with them on their site. In the book, I got the idea that the Winklevoss-Narenda project was more of a straight dating site, with less Facebook characteristics than indicated in the movie. They also have Zuckerberg saying “I’m in,” in the movie. In the book, Zuckerberg never really says whether he’s in or out.

In the book, Divya Narendra reads about the launch of Facebook in the Harvard Crimson. The movie is more dramatic, with Narendra interrupting a choir as he sees the site on a laptop.

The book does make reference to Asian girls being somehow available to the brilliant nerdy awkward types like Zuckerberg and Saverin. The novel is faithful to this observation.

Saverin’s discussion of the Winklevoss-Narendra cease-and-desist order is very much out of the book, and shows that Zuckerberg sees himself as the prime-mover for the Facebook project, alone, even then.

Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker was an inspired casting choice. Readers may or may not have visually imagined Timberlake as a match for Parker. But the party-man charisma, the swaggering gregariousness—Timberlake captures these aspects of the Sean Parker character consistent with his portrayal in the book. Parker’s discovery of theFacebook site is from the book, though there is no easy way to convey that Parker suspected before seeing the site that online social networks might be the next big activity for the internet.

Some of the dialogue in the Winklelevoss-Narendra/Larry Summers meeting is surely juiced up for dramatic purposes (“punch me in the face” from Summers). But the utter rejection of the Winklevoss-Narendra appeal is right out of the book.

Sean Parker’s meeting with Zuckerberg and Saverin in New York is straight from the book, complete with Parker starting to bring Zuckerberg under his influence, and Saverin’s dislike of Parker and suspicions about him. And Parker’s push to drop the “the” from “theFacebook” is also right out of the book.

Saverin’s feeding of chicken to the chicken he carried around as part of his initiation into the Phoenix club was not given nearly as much prominence in the book as it is in the movie. It is an early event that involves Saverin alone, and that resolves quickly.

Saverin’s behavior as Zuckerman moves out to California is consistent with the book. We could say Saverin trusted his friend, and preferred to remain in denial over some of the warning signs that were developing—Zuckerberg’s dismissal of advertising, Saverin’s primary activity, and Zuckerberg’s growing connection with Sean Parker and agreement with his suggestions. Despite the warning signs, Saverin puts up $18,000 for the California trip during the summer of 2004. Parker bumps into Zuckerberg in the book as well as in the movie. Do we really believe this was a coincidence?

The “I’m the CEO – bitch” designation on Mark Zuckerberg’s business card appears at the end of the book, and I do not recall it being suggested by Sean Parker.

The scene of the Winklevosses finding out their losing race had been broadcasted on Facebook, and that Facebook was now enjoying an international reach, to them an ultimate slap in the face, is right out of the book.

Eduardo Saverin’s trips to the Bay Area are dramatized and condensed in the movie. Some of the order of events is altered. But the essence remains the same—Saverin becomes disenchanted with events in the Bay area and freezes the bank account. He signs a set of papers, and then after Zuckerberg obtains a $500,000 investment from a venture capitalist firm, finds himself presented with a different set of papers that essentially “dilute” him out of the company. Two other aspects at this point of the movie are different from the book, revving up the drama:

  • In the book, Saverin finds himself in the offices of a new set of attorneys, attorneys he has never met, asking him to sign the new papers. Zuckerberg does not meet him on this last trip, and probably wasn’t in the same building with him at the time.
  • The confrontations between Saverin and Parker, particularly the one at the “ambush” scene, do not take place in the book. The indirect removal of his friend from Facebook appears more in character with the Mark Zuckerberg of the book, though less interesting on the screen.

Zuckerberg going to a meeting with venture capitalists in his pajamas as suggested by Sean Parker is straight out of the book. Parker orchestrates the incident, to get back at a venture capital firm Parker felt had wronged him in a previous deal.

Sean Parker himself is removed from Facebook after indiscretions at a party a few months after the “ambush” of Saverin, as depicted in the book.

The notations at the end about the settlement of the lawsuits appear to have been updated. The Winklevoss-Narenadra settlement is noted. Also noted is a settlement of the Saverin lawsuit for an undisclosed amount. And Facebook, at the end of the movie, is up to being worth 25 billion, with 500 million members.

_______

“Social Network” is a faithful adaptation of the book The Accidental Millionaires, true to the tone of the story. The pace of the movie, and its modern, happening-now, vibrant feel add to the effect of this fascinating, entertaining film. I would not be surprised to see Oscar nominations for screenplay, and for acting for Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake.

_______

The Book: The Accidental Millionaires is the story of the beginning of the Facebook website, an internet institution so ingrained into cyberspace now that it is hard to believe the site has only been around for about half a decade. In the “Author’s Note,” Mezrich indicates:

  • He “recreated scenes in the book” from documents and interviews.
  • He acknowledges the chronology is as “close to exact as possible.”
  • “In some instances, details of settings and descriptions have been changed or imagined.”
  • “Identifying details of certain people were altered.”
  • “Other than a handful of public figures who populate this story, names and personal information have been altered.”
  • He uses the “technique of recreated dialogue.”

This means that the book itself is partially invented, based on real facts, but not entirely factual. My comparison here is between the book and the movie. I have not researched the accuracy of the information offered in the book.

Another consideration is Mezrich’s acknowledgement that he had no access to Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is the main character of this story. Mezrich takes care to be fair to what he suspects is the Zuckerberg character’s point-of-view, but it is worth knowing that he had no direct interaction to gain that perspective for his book.

_______

The story begins with Eduardo Saverin joining the Phoenix, an exclusive social club at Harvard, where he is a junior. He meets Mark Zuckerberg, whom he evaluates as too socially awkward to get an invitation to the Phoenix. But the two strike up a friendship, though Saverin finds Zuckerberg a difficult person to read. It is clear to Saverin that Zuckerberg is incredibly smart, with a prodigious talent for computers.

Mezrich then introduces the Winklevoss twins, good-looking future Olympic rowers. The Winklevoss twins and their friend, Divya Narendra, have an idea for an internet dating site for Harvard students to be called “the Harvard Connnection,” a site designed to facilitate more efficient contacts between Harvard young men and women sometimes too busy to meet compatible dating partners. They have the concept; they need to replace their computer design partner who has lost interest in the project.

On a night during the last week of October 2003, possibly the result of frustrations of not getting just a little bit of encouraging attention from the opposite sex, Mark Zuckerberg launches FaceMash, a site that flirts with comparing female students to farm animals and invites students to rate the ladies at the school according to “hotness,” ranking then on line. The hacking skills, and computer sophistication needed to pull this off are impressive, though Zuckerberg gets into trouble for the site, and takes it down very quickly after it goes up (but not before thousands of internet hits).

Zuckerberg’s FaceMash stunt brings him to the attention of Divya Narendra, who approaches Zuckerberg about becoming the replacement for the lost computer designer for their website, the Harvard Connection. Zuckerberg checks with his friend Edward Saverin, who isn’t keen on the idea. He does not think Zuckerberg needs them. But Zuckerberg decides to meet with them.

The Winklevoss twins and Divya Narendra think they have partner. They believe Zuckerberg will jump at the chance to join their project to wash away any bad publicity he got from FaceMash, and at the chance for an awkward computer geek to mix with well-known, socially connected Harvard students. They fail to consider that Zuckerberg may not have believed the FaceMash episode was bad publicity, and that computer technology was maybe more important to Zuckerberg than social standing.

At about the same time, shortly after Facemash, Mark Zuckerberg tells Eduardo Saverin about his idea for a site called “the facebook,” a site where Harvard students can put up pictures and profiles—a more constructive use of the FaceMash technology. No, Zuckerberg does not consider this the same as the Winklevoss twins’ project, which was more of a simple dating site. Zuckerberg had apparently decided not to work on their site. Eduardo Saverin puts up a thousand dollars to get “theFacebook” project running.

But Zuckerberg doesn’t tell the Winklevoss twins he is not interested in their project. He puts them off, saying he has no time, and that a lot of work needs to be done to liven up a site that “lacks functionality.” The Winklevosses and Narendra are frustrated at Zuckerberg’s lack of progress, but they still assume Zuckerberg is their computer design partner.

In early 2004, “theFacebook” goes up at Harvard, an online social network for Harvard students. Divya Narendra sees an article in the Harvard Crimson newspaper and shows it to the Winklevoss twins. They are livid. They see this as the theft of their idea by Zuckerberg while he had strung them along. They will speak to their father’s lawyer and see what can be done to remedy the perceived transgression.

TheFacebook is catching on. Right now, it makes no money—it costs money to run the site. Zuckerberg enjoys its success. Savarin does too, but it is his money into the project, and he is concerned about practicalities. Zuckerberg also tells him that about a week after the site launched, he had received notice from Cameran Winklevoss asking him to cease and desist, and making other demands. Zuckerberg had answered, denying his site was the same as the Winklevoss site, and denying they ever had a binding agreement to work together. Zuckerberg’s roommates Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes join the project to deal with the fast growth of the Facebook, and its coming expansion to additional colleges. Saverin suggests that he will approach advertisers to begin monetizing the site.

The Winklevosses try to get Harvard to intervene based on Zuckerberg’s alleged violation of the Harvard student honor code. The school administration flatly refuses.

The book now introduces Sean Parker, an internet entrepreneur, previously involved with Napster and another site called Plaxo. He is famous in Silicon Valley computer/internet circles as a wild party-man who knows everyone. He looks for a computer/internet start-up that will make him the next billionaire. He thinks social networks have possibilities. He stumbles on “theFacebook” and sees potential (though he thinks “Facebook” alone would be a better title for the site). He decides he needs to find and meet Mark Zuckerberg, whose name is on every page of the site: “A Mark Zuckerberg Production.”

Eduardo Saverin continues efforts to line up advertisers. He and Zuckerberg meet Sean Parker in New York. Saverin recognizes that Parker and Zuckerberg have an instant rapport. Parker has no money of his own, but has the connections to put Zuckerberg and Saverin in contact with potential Silicon Valley venture capitalists and investors.

After the spring of 2004 term at Harvard, Zuckerberg moves to California. Saverin is not comfortable with the separation, with the idea of Zuckerberg’s exposure to whirlwind personalities like Sean Parker, but consoles himself with the idea they will be back at Harvard for the fall term.

The Winklevosses and Divya Narendra launch their site, now called Connect U. It does not catch on, even just at the university.

Sean Parker and Mark Zuckerberg join forces in California. Eduardo Saverin comes out for a weekend and sees how wild the Silicon Valley atmosphere is, and how Zuckerberg is seduced by it. He is uncomfortable with Zuckerberg’s one-word answers as Saverin tells Zuckerberg he has made progress with the advertisers. But he feels reassured by the idea that he and Zuckerberg have a partnership agreement, and that theFacebook is going to be big.

Saverin is back in New York, still believing he is in charge of the financial aspects of theFacebook. (And Saverin had put up more and more of his own funds to bankroll the project, including the costs of the California stay for Zuckerberg and his associates.) He writes an angry letter to Zuckerberg about his lack of inclusion, and when he is unsatisfied with Zuckerberg’s response to the letter, he freezes the bank account for the project.

The Winklevosses sue Zuckerberg. The freezing of the bankroll drives Zuckerberg closer to Sean Parker. Parker connects Zuckerberg with some venture capitalist investors who put up $500,000 for a small stake in Facebook. This will allow the defense of the Winklevoss lawsuit and provide finds to further grow the company, now called Facebook, as suggested by Sean Parker.

Earlier, Saverin is summoned to California to sign papers for a new legal arrangement. He signs them, believing he still owns over thirty percent of Facebook, And Facebook is now up to a million users and growing. On April 4, 2005, Eduardo Saverin arrives in California for another meeting with lawyers. Additional shares have been added to the company. Saverin’s shares would now be worth under ten per cent of the company. Saverin was being “diluted out of the company.” Saverin refuses to sign. He feels betrayed. He will file his own lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg.

Later during 2005, Sean Parker is arrested at a wild college party. Mark Zuckerberg, though undoubtedly feeling some debt to Parker, sees his wild lifestyle as a risk to Facebook. Now Sean Parker has to go. Mark Zuckerberg’s attitude and personality could be summed up simply with the notation on his business card: “I’m CEO – Bitch.”

In the Epilogue, we find out Sean Parker is still a force in Silicon Valley, the Winklevosses settled their suit for a speculated amount of 65 million (an amount they reportedly were not happy with), Eduardo Savaren’s lawsuit is “shrouded in secrecy,” though his name is added as a “cofounder” of Facebook. As to Mark Zuckerman, Facebook is valued at an estimated fifteen billion dollars with an estimated two hundred million users plus, adding five million users a week.

The Accidental Millionaires

The Accidental Millionaires