After the spate of obituaries, is there anything left to learn about the man who turned personal computing into a pleasure — and then a necessity — for so many of us? Yes. In Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson (a former managing editor of Time, EW’s sister publication) brings us as full a portrait as we’re ever likely to get of the prickly, complicated, driven genius who reimagined computers, movies, phones, music, and tablets.
It’s not always a pretty picture. The sleek Apple devices we dandle so comfortably sprang almost entirely from Jobs’ imagination — ”endowed with his DNA,” as Isaacson puts it. The perfection he sought came at a price: Some days Jobs bullied his team; other days he praised them. He could inexplicably ignore key employees when gifting coveted Apple stock. His family got the same loving/cruel treatment. Until he was sued and took a paternity test, he did not pay child support for his first child, Lisa, his daughter with an old girlfriend (when he paid a random visit when the girl was 3, she did not recognize him). Jobs punished himself, too, often going on bizarre fasts — subsisting on a single food, like carrots or apples, for weeks on end. As Lisa said, ”He believed that great harvests came from arid sources, pleasure from restraint.” Even on his deathbed, his feverish inventiveness did not flag. ”I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,” he told Isaacson. ”It would be seamlessly synced with all your devices.”
If occasionally workmanlike, Isaacson’s massive, broadly sourced bio is thorough, filling in many gaps in Jobs’ life. My only quibble is a small one: Though the jacket is gorgeous (perhaps because Jobs himself had a hand in it), the interior is not — thin paper, an unremarkable font. Will readers notice or care about something as effete as design? If they do, it’ll be because Steve Jobs taught them to. A-