Steve Jobs Biography Portrays a Quirky Visionary
I just downloaded Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson's just-released biography of the recently deceased Apple co-founder, to my Kindle Reader. I can't wait to dive in. Judging from the reviews appearing across the web over the past few days, the prosaically titled 656-page tome seems sure to be provocative reading.
Here's a sampling of the buzz:
The Washington Post: Reviewer Michael S. Rosenwald leads with a startling anecdote from the book, depicting Steve Jobs awakening from liver transplant surgery in a Memphis hospital in 2009. Even as he drifted in and out of consciousness, the tech mogul displayed his impatient, often-dictatorial fixation with technological perfection, by criticizing the design of the oxygen mask on his face and ordering his caretakers to bring him the five best alternatives so he could chose the one that suited him. Overall, Rosenwald praises Isaacson's biography as a well-crafted, meticulous account that works on multiple levels. "It is on the one hand a history of the most exciting time in the age of computers, when machines first became personal, and later, fashionable, accessories," Rosenwald writes. "It is also a textbook study of the rise and fall and rise of Apple, and the brutal clashes that destroyed friendships and careers. And it is a gadget lover's dream, with fabulous inside accounts of how the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone and iPad came into being."
The New York Times: Critic Janet Maslin opines that the book is as clear and elegant as any of the products that Jobs helped create. She focuses on Isaacson's account of Jobs' uneasy but profoundly formative relationship with his adoptive parents, in particular his father, Paul Jobs. In Maslin's lead, Jobs takes his biographer to see the Mountain View, Calif., tract house in which he and his parents lived in his youth and speaks admirably of the stockade fence that his father built. "He loved doing things right," Jobs explains. "He even cared about the look of parts that you couldn't see." To assuage those who feared that the book would be a hagiography, Maslin quotes the author's description of Jobs as a restless, often difficult genius with a penchant for sometimes cruel insensitivity. "His Zen awareness was not accompanied by an excess of calm, peace of mind or interpersonal mellowness," Isaacson writes. "He could stun an unsuspecting victim with an emotional towel-snap, perfectly aimed." But Isaacson also explains that Jobs' mean streak, unpleasant as it was, also helped drive Apple to its phenomenal success.
The Huffington Post: Bianca Bosker seems most intrigued by the hints contained in Steve Jobs about Apple's future direction and products on the horizon, including a radical remake of the TV set and a digital takeover of the $8 billion school textbook industry. Isaacson writes that Jobs' idea "was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad." In doing so, Jobs also hoped to demolish what he derided as the "corrupt" process by which state officials select textbooks. "If we can make the textbooks free and they come with the iPad, then they won't have to be certified," Jobs reasoned.
Wired: In the tech publication's usual pithy, off-center style, writer Christina Bonnington dispenses with a conventional review and instead provides the biography's "6 most surprising reveals." Among them: Jobs' quasi-fanatical obsession with destroying Google's Android phone OS, a competitor to the iPhone, because of his perception that Google was stealing ideas from Apple. "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong," Jobs proclaimed. "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear on this."
Salon: Mary Elizabeth Williams also passes on a conventional review. Instead, she focuses on a controversial Jobs decision described in the book -- his postponing of conventional medical treatment for a tumor in 2003, so that he could spend nine months experimenting with alternative treatments. "Jobs lived eight years after his initial diagnosis," Williams writes. "Anyone with experience of cancer will tell you that five is considered a relative triumph."
CBS News: The site recaps an interview Isaacson gave to 60 Minutes on Sunday evening, revealing that Jobs met his biological father, Abdulfattah "John" Jandall, a few times in the 1980s before either of them knew they were related. Jandall, who ran a popular Silicon Valley restaurant, recalled his offspring as "a great tipper." According to the author, after Jobs finally learned the truth from his biological sister, novelist Mona Simpson, he chose not to contact Jandall.
The Wall Street Journal: The newspaper shares an intriguing video report from Reuters on how readers throughout Asia are clamoring for the book.
The Atlantic: Adam Clark Estes notes Isaacson's revelation that while Jobs wanted to believe in an afterlife, he suspected that death might be "like an on-off switch -- Click, and you're gone." Jobs paused for a moment, and then told Isaacson: "And that's why I don't put on-off switches on Apple devices."
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