The both preposterous and completely unsurprising bio-flick, “Social Network,” about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s both preposterous and completely unsurprising 21st century life, is both sociology and entertainment. Zuckerberg is 26 and the looming question has to be who cares about the biography of a 26-year-old?
Movie star James Dean died at age 24 in a car crash and there have been scores of biographies of his difficult life, brilliant talent and tragic end. You’ve got at least three acts there in that sad story. You might have a good two acts for someone like Jim Morrison of The Doors who died at age 27 and director Oliver Stone stretched that into a more than two hour movie that cost 38 million to make and lost money at the box office. But Zuckerberg? Harvard dweeb, founds Facebook, becomes a billionaire and then… uh… buys some hot new servers? Zuckerberg gets into an argument with some other dweebs from Harvard over who had the idea for Facebook? He buys a Porshe (I guess it would have to be a Tesla for the Hollywood pic). He speaks at a tech conference and gets booed when he makes an insulting remark to some open source dweeb from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and tension and hi-jinks ensue. I guess I could see “Social Network” and find out for myself.
The early memoir problem is one I experienced first hand when I wrote a book on my own life while still in my early thirties about events that took place in my teens and twenties. My memoir, “Moving Violations, war zones, wheelchairs and Declarations of Independence,” was all about a serious car accident at age 19 while I was in college — a life changed forever, and a slow road back as a journalist, first at a little Public Radio station in Oregon (KLCC, Eugene) and eventually to make it to ABC News having traveled the world and learned a lot of important lessons along the way.
John Hockenberry, with family, today.
BLAH BLAH BLAH. All right, all right, it’s all in the book so I’ll shut up. The book had exciting stories because a lot happened, but I was in my early 30’s. Every morning as I wrote that book I asked myself, who cares about the life of someone who has only lived 30 years? Okay, Jesus was 33 but that is absolutely NO help at all. Help was nowhere, in fact. I couldn’t cheat and kill off the main character like in the James Dean story. There was already a car accident in my book you can’t have two unless you add a NASCAR subplot and that’s complicated and also completely fiction. And even though I wrote poetry just as awful as your typical lyric from The Doors, I had no rock band and no serious drug problem, so the Jim Morrison scenario was out
In the end my book did fine. It was optioned for a biopic that never went anywhere. The movie deal has been kicking around Hollywood gathering gray hairs like I am these days. But the big problem with the young bio memoir is that there HAS to be a sequel. No matter what you crammed into the years before you turned 26, most of the story will come later, assuming you don’t do the James Dean/Morrison thing or add a complicated NASCAR subplot and kiss the rest of the story goodbye.
When I was 26, I was still in my job as newscaster for the public radio show “All Things Considered.” I hadn’t even left the United States once or even visited New York City —the place where I have lived for more than 18 years. I was still married to my first wife —the divorce was still a few years away. I hadn’t met my current wife or had our first set of twins, or our second set of twins, or our fifth child or… I could go on.
The best part of the story certainly came later. Unquestionably Zuckerberg’s best scenes are ahead of him, whether we get to hear about them or not. It’s also possible that with the pace of technological change in just ten years, we may be saying “Who is Mark Zuckerberg?” There is so much of the story yet to be told that the sequel might even be the more interesting one, especially if Zuckerberg ends up as a boring nobody, deep in debt, and perhaps with a complicated NASCAR subplot.
All I know is that nowadays whenever I look around and see the chaos and wonder in my crazy fabulous family, I can expect to have the thought: “So dude, when you going get around to writing the rest of this great story?” Just what a writer needs eh? More pressure. If someone would just hand me 6.9 billion I would be fine. I’d start tomorrow. Even one billion (I’d need that much to pay my wife, Alison and our very savvy kids for the rights to their stories).