Steve Jobs, biography review

cover shot of Steve Jobs biography

Jean-Louis Gassée, Monday Note

Let me jump to the conclusion: This is an extraordinary book on many levels: informative, entertaining often, insightful, sympathetic but not indulgent; it rises to its unusual subject and manages to render its complexity in a straightforward manner that attests to the biographer’s talent.

Last year, Walt Isaacson called to talk about the bio Steve had asked him to write. No surprise there, Dear Leader always wanted the best, and Isaacson had written world-class biographies of Ben Franklin, Einstein, and Henry Kissinger.

I told Isaacson how sad this felt, how I perceived Steve’s decision as ‘‘putting his affairs in order’’ before leaving this Earth. Walt didn’t answer directly, but he did say something shocking: Steve had relinquished all control over the book, all decisions were Walt’s. I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t see Steve giving up control on anything. His fanatical attention to detail is, sorry, was a key ingredient of his success. But Steve’s editorial grip on the book went no further than his picture on the cover. In Isaacson’s words:

He had never, in two years, asked anything about what I was putting in the book or what conclusions I had drawn. But now he looked at me and said, “I know there will be a lot in your book I won’t like.” It was more a question than a statement, and when he stared at me for a response, I nodded, smiled, and said I was sure that would be true. “That’s good,” he said. “Then it won’t seem like an in-house book. I won’t read it for a while, because I don’t want to get mad. Maybe I will read it in a year—if I’m still around.” By then, his eyes were closed and his energy gone, so I quietly took my leave.

Read the full review at Monday Note … or for a different take, take a look at Malcolm Gladwell’s review in The New Yorker.