Two thousand years ago, a Greek biographer named Plutarch found himself labouring in a messy workshop filled with forgotten objects, precious relics, testimonies, alibis, and the unverifiable. He was tackling the stories of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. To bring some order to the chaos, Plutarch decided he would leave the exacting details of his heroes' exploits to the historians, and concentrate on what made these men people. After all, he was writing about lives not histories. Plutarch wrote,

A short saying, or a jest, shall distinguish a person's real character more than the greatest sieges or the most important battles. Therefore, as painters in their portraits labour the likeness in the face, and particularly about the eyes, in which the peculiar turn of mind most appears, and run over the rest with a more careless hand; so we must be permitted to strike off the features of the soul, in order to give a real likeness of these great men.[1]

Plutarch skipped over distracting events that ruined neat line of his narrative - just as Steve leaves the plates off his roadster to preserve its elegance. A frail 1880s copy of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives sits on top of an impossibly balanced pile of paperbacks in the corner of my cramped rental. I am wondering if Plutarch was ever sued for libel by Julius Caesar’s estate. Author Leander Kahney said he took out a million dollar defamation insurance policy just in case Steve didn't like his biography, Inside Steve’s Brain (2010). Considering Steve’s reputation, you can understand why Leander covered his a..s.  All books published by John Wiley & Sons were pulled from the shelves of Apple stores one month before their unauthorised biography, iCon was released.  John Wiley probably had two reactions: Big friggin' deal - no one goes to an Apple store to buy a book anyway; and thanks for the free publicity, Steve. The book’s co-author, Jeffery Young was less than casual about Steve's tantrum. ''This guy is out of control. I'm just a little guy. I'm just one of many guys Steve has destroyed over the years."[2]

Classy author, Walter Isaacson, is putting the finishing flourish on Steve’s first authorised biography. The former managing editor of Time Magazine has already written biographies about Kissinger, Ben Franklin, and Steve's hero, Einstein. His latest subject will have a lot to say about how his story is spun.  Walter’s book is destined to be more hagiography than biography. Omitted from the author’s bio on the book’s jacket is the fact that both Wally and Steve’s wife sit on the Teach For America board of directors.[3]  New York Times says, "Cooperation with Mr. Isaacson could be a sign that Mr. Jobs has emerged from his recent health battles with more of an interest in shaping his legacy."[4] The opening lines of Walter’s bestselling biography of Ben Franklin 
demonstrates that Steve’s story is something he has visited before:

His arrival in Philadelphia is one of the most famous scenes in autobiographical literature: the bedraggled 17-year-old runaway, cheeky, yet with a pretence of humility straggling off the boat and buying three puffy rolls as he wanders up Market Street.[5]

Within ten days of New York Times rumour, The Huffington Post ran a competition inviting entrants to design the cover. One reader suggested that the biography’s title be iSaySo.[6]

Steve has previously demonstrated, not only his desire to rewrite his own history, but also rewrite the history The United States of America so that it can dovetail nicely with his own view of himself. One of the coolest myths about Steve is the idea that he was a child of the sixties zeitgeist. Unfortunately for him, he actually grew up in the tacky seventies - a fact that can't be refuted no matter how many Bob Dylan albums he owns. Nonetheless, in an interview in the documentary, Triumph of The Nerds, Steve never lets an irksome fact get in the way of a good story:

Remember that the Sixties happened in the early Seventies, right, so you have to remember that and that's sort of when I came of age. So I saw a lot of this and to me the spark of that was that there was something beyond sort of what you see every day. It's the same thing that causes people to want to be poets instead of bankers. And I think that's a wonderful thing. And I think that that same spirit can be put into products, and those products can be manufactured and given to people and they can sense that spirit.[7]

The “sixties happened in the early seventies”? Really, Steve?

My girlfriend walks around the house talking on her iPhone. The image used to be farcical in the eighties when only Wall Street brokers were rich enough to own a cell phone. These days even the guy who lives in his car has a Nokia. 

My phone rings.  I let it bleat for beat or two more than usual, then I pick up. It’s my son. 

“I know you’ll hate this, but I just bought a MacBook Pro.” I laugh. I’ve been keeping him up to date with my progress on this book since I started three years ago. A little defensively, I say, “I don’t hate Apple. I think they make lovely products for people who have too much money and the luxury to throw it away on something that will be obsolete in six months.” He laughs at the predictable cynicism that is my signature. My son is also aware that I have a jokingly slapped an apple sticker on my ugly and treacherous (but dirt cheap) Lenovo laptop. I follow up with a compliment, “I’m just glad you turned out successful enough to be able to afford the best things, mate.” Six years ago, my son bought me an iRiver, rather than a more expensive iPod. It still works unlike my girlfriend’s QE2 version iPod – the battery died last year. 

Both Steve and my son share the selfsame opportunistic and entrepreneurial spirit. Both spent their childhoods rifling through garage sales searching not for toys, but goods they could fiercely bargain for, and resell for exorbitant sums of pocket money. I remember his excitement when he discovered a deluge of Apple computers out the back of his school. It was only when he tried to use them, did he discover why they were giving them away. He also began to understand why all Australian schools had switched to Windows. He recently made a killing reselling iPhones on eBay. He used the profits to pay cash for a new car. Not bad for an eighteen-year-old. He tells me that he’s trying to print out flyers for his latest business enterprise, but he can’t figure out how to use Apple’s printing software. We have all been long time Windows users. He gave up on the Mac and decided to do his printing at the local copy centre. We both laugh. I love that he so industrious, but he works on too many things at once. Lacking my own personal point of reference, I quote from his kindred spirit, “Steve says ‘It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don't get on the wrong track or try to do too much.’ He said that to Business Week in 2004". My son’s response, “Firstly, what the hell is Business Week, and how do you remember all this exact stuff? You always say his first name like you know him or something.” I laugh again, “Yeah, I know, I know.” I remember something The Bible said about “Out of the mouth of babes”.
My girl finishes her call about the same time as my son and I. “Hey, show me that iPhone a second, Hon?” I ask.  She hands it over. I place it next to my Android-loaded Xperia X10. “Mine’s bigger,” I smile. Completely aware I am playing a juvenile game. Her retort, “Yeah, but mine is cooler”.

I channel Bill with a faux smug answer, “That doesn’t matter.”

I never met my real dad, so I occasionally think about the unfinished business of Steve and his Bio-Dad, John.  These two stubborn bastards never spoke to each other until Steve’s cancer was all over the news. John sheepishly posted the occasional email to his son such as "Happy Birthday" or "I hope your health is improving." One day John found a reply in his inbox six weeks before Steve passed - “Thank you”…. And that’s all he wrote.[8]

[1] Plutarch (2001) Parallel Lives. (J. Dryden, Trans). In A.H. Clough’s (Ed.), Plutarch's Lives Volume 1.  New York: Modern Library.

[2] Hafner, K. (2005, April 30) Steve Jobs's Review of His Biography: Ban It. New York Times.

[3] Elmer-DeWitt, P. (2011, August 16) A Peek at Steve Jobs Book jacket - Front, Back, and Spine [blog]. Apple 2.0. Retrived from: http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/08/16/a-peek-at-steve-jobs-book-jacket-front-and-back/

[4] Stone, B. (2010, February 15) Jobs Is Said to Assist With Book on His Life. New York Times.

[5] Isaacson, W. (2004) Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.


[6] Bosker, B. (2010, February 25) Steve Jobs’ Biography: Design the Cover of Steve Jobs’ Book [Blog]. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/25/steve-jobs-biography-desi_n_473864.html

[7] Oregon Public Broadcasting. (Producer). (1996). Triumph of The Nerds: The Rise of The Accidental Empires [DVD].

[8] Berzon, A (2011, October 11) For Jobs's Biological Father, the Reunion Never Came. Wall Street Journal

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