'Steve Jobs' review: Walter Isaacson's biography mesmerizes [telecom]

'Steve Jobs' review: Walter Isaacson's biography mesmerizes

Walter Isaacson weaves a full and often revealing tale that brings 'Steve Jobs' to life through interviews with the late Apple visionary and those in his inner circle.

By Richard Rayner, Special to the Los Angeles Times

October 28, 2011

He was an abandoned child who grew up with the unshakable belief that he was destined to be a prince. How arrogant and sensible of him.

His personal hygiene was bad. He often wore no shoes and liked to stick his feet in the toilet. His food faddery was so extreme that he sometimes endangered his own health. While in a hospital for a liver transplant in 2009, he refused to wear a medical mask because he couldn't stand the design. His own signature style, which featured jeans and a black turtleneck (Issey Miyake made him a lifetime supply of the latter, which he kept in a closet), was both anonymous and instantly recognizable. He was a control freak and a credit hog who burst into tears when he didn't get what he wanted. He sometimes demeaned his girlfriends and his employees yet such was his charisma that they went on loving him. He lived in a Palo Alto house whose modest scale astounded his rival Bill Gates. He said that he came of age at a magical time, in the early 1970s, when his consciousness was raised by Zen, Bob Dylan, and the drug LSD.

J.P. Morgan or John Rockefeller, in other words, Steve Jobs wasn't. Yet he died with a personal fortune of more than $8 billion (according to Forbes), having been a single-minded pioneer of the PC age, having created and built arguably the world's most famous company, Apple, and having, in some way or another, touched all our lives. He was a visionary as ruthless and driven as any of the great first-generation American capitalists and his story already strikes us as a modern-day fable with a multitude of strange and enchanted details.

Journalist and biographer Walter Isaacson has previously written about Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. Small wonder that Jobs picked him out, and Isaacson gives the Steve Jobs fairy tale a swift, full, and less than utterly flattering airing in a book that Jobs authorized himself and from whose stark white and black Apple-like cover he stares like a Zen digital master.

Jobs personally picked that mesmerizing image, while not having the time, or the health at that point, and maybe not the inclination either, to influence the text as a whole. Again, this is apt. Jobs drove his collaborators insane with his perfectionism yet he enabled them too. He knew the strengths and talents of others and was, for a tantrum-throwing Svengali, surprisingly self-aware. I'd guess that when he died less than a month ago he knew that Isaacson had served him fine.


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Monty Solomon
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