First "Steve Jobs" review finds biography worthy of its subject
In a book review published on Friday, the New York Times notes that Jobs' story "calls for a book that is clear, elegant and concise enough to qualify as an iBio," and goes on to say that author Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" does its best to hit that mark.
"Here is an encyclopedic survey of all that Mr. Jobs accomplished," critic Janet Maslin writes, "replete with the passion and excitement that it deserves."
Maslin calls "Steve Jobs" a biography of record, explaining that the author penned the 630-page book after Jobs authorized him to chronicle his life in 2009. Although Isaacson knows how to celebrate genius, being biographer of two long-dead geniuses, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, Jobs' biography posed a challenge as the subject was battling a mortal illness during the book's writing.
The critic goes on to suggest that because the book was written to be accessible to future generations, reading it so soon after the subject's death may seem strange. The critic gives the example of an account of the release of Apple's iPad 2, an event so recent that it is hard to appreciate in the context of Jobs' storied legacy. She finds, however, that the biography successfully reaches across generations, from current to future.
"Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson | Source: Simon & Schuster
The review summarizes the main stories Isaacson chose to paint the picture of Jobs' life, from the house where he grew up, to the founding of Apple in 1976 and finally to his years-long battle with pancreatic cancer. "Steve Jobs" gives deep insight into the private life and relationships of its subject, facets of life that Jobs closely guarded from the public eye.
Also detailed is the corporate intrigue Jobs participated in with rivals like Bill Gates and John Sculley. Maslin writes that the chapters devoted to Jobs' illness describe the "relative tenderness" of Gates' last meeting with Jobs. The review makes it clear that the influence Jobs had on those he met was an important focus for Isaacson.
While the book "greatly admires its subject" and focuses on Jobs and the people around him, the biographer's portrayals of product announcements, complete with Jobs' theatrical introductions, are the most "adulatory passages" of the biography.
Maslin says Isaacson basically compares Jobs to the writer's previous biographical subjects, emphasizing how deceptively effortless Jobs' ideas look due to his amazing foresight. As an example, he notes Jobs' virtual reinvention of the music industry with the creation of iTunes and the iPod.
"Mr. Isaacsonâs long view basically puts Mr. Jobs up there with Franklin and Einstein," Maslin said. "Even if a tiny MP3 player is not quite the theory of relativity."
"Steve Jobs" is a streamlined portrait of Jobs and his legacy, one that is not analytical and gives an uncolored look into the life of its subject. It is the story of how Jobs overcame skeptics and obstacles to become a giant in the tech industry, but more importantly it is an opportunity to understand him as a man.
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