Book Reviews

True sequels are as rare in fiction as they are all-too-common in other media. Of course, many authors have series characters, such as Sue Grafton and Kinsey Milhone. These are probably as close as fiction gets to a true Hollywood sequel, in that they are often the same novel written over and over, but they are closer to a television series than sequels in the cinematic sense of the word.

Multi-book cycles like the Harry Potter novels have more in common with preplanned movie series like the Star Wars prequels or the Lord of the Rings movies, where the number of movies and the overall storyline are planned in advance.

Typically, movie sequels follow the sequence A) “Holy shit, that movie was successful!” and B) “How can we replicate that success as quickly and cheaply as possible.” As a result, the experience of seeing a film like Taken 2 is depressingly similar to seeing the first Taken, only less satisfying.

In one sense, Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep is a sequel to The Shining in that classic Hollywood mold, but no one can accuse the author of turning out a rushed project to cash in on the success of the original, considering that 26 years elapsed between their publication dates.

But if Doctor Sleep were a cynical exercise in rehashing the formula of the first novel, Wendy and Danny Torrance would have wound up snow bound in another haunted hotel with another deranged alcoholic.

That is not the story of Doctor Sleep. Twenty-six years after the tragic winter in the Overlook Hotel, Dan Torrance has followed his father down the road of alcoholism but manage to crawl his way back. 2013 finds him as an orderly in a New England hospice, where his “shining” enables him to ease the final passage of dying patients, earning him the nickname “Doctor Sleep.”

Dan’s shining also helps him make contact with another child with the same talent, in this case a young girl named Abra Stone. Born on September 11, 2001, her shining dwarfs even Dan’s.

[types field=”author-phonto” alt=”stephen_king-coming-to-boulder” title=”stephen_king-coming-to-boulder” size=”medium” align=”left” resize=”proportional” class=”author-photo”][/types]That makes her a target for a band of nearly immortal “psychic vampires” called the True Knot, who feed on the “shining” (or “steam,” as they call it) of children like Abra by torturing them to death. To the outside world, the True Knot appears to be harmless senior citizens trundling about the country in tricked-out motor homes. To them, young Abra represents an unimaginable bounty and they will let nothing stand between them and their “feast.”
Doctor Sleep succeeds not just because the author has found a wholly original narrative for the character of Danny Torrance. There is no reason that Doctor Sleep has to be a sequel to The Shining, and you can read this book whether or not you have read the first. If are you familiar with King’s original classic, this provides you an additional rooting interest in Dan’s survival, and not just in his battle against the True Knot. As an adult, he is a nobly flaw protagonist in a classic Stephen King mold. That’s a good thing.

Abra is such a vividly endearing character, the thought of her falling into the clutches of the True Knot is genuinely intolerable.

As villains, the True Knot is just original enough, with nicely realized details that make it all too credible that they could exist in our midst and go unnoticed. What they are not is so invulnerable that it beggars belief that Dan and Abra could emerge victorious. The True Knot suffer from believable weakness that are a logical result of their immortality and their contempt for ordinary people, “rubes” as they call them.

Doctor Sleep is lean and efficiently told, free of the bloat that occasionally plagues King’s lesser works, and his writing is fresh and vivid. I could feel the staleness in the air and smell the dirt as Dan and a friend break into a barn to unearth the remains of the Knot’s previous victim. I felt like I was in the hands of the man who wrote The Shining, ’Salem’s Lot, and The Dead Zone, rather than the guy who unleashed a forgettable stream of works like Insomnia back in the 1990s.

This book is deceptively short, but not because it gives short shrift to its subject. The reason for its brevity is its laser-like focus on the topic. Drift reads like an extended version of the first ten to fifteen minutes of the author’s nightly MSNBC program (very extended, as the audiobook version, read by the author, clocks in at a little over seven hours). She states her thesis and spends the following 270-odd pages relentlessly backing it up.

Her thesis is straightforward: It’s supposed to be hard for the United States to go to war. Obstacles to unfettered warmaking by the Executive branch are built into our Constitution, and since Vietnam, the Executive Branch has been doing it’s level best to brush those impediments aside or trample them underfoot. Those efforts help explain why America is still trying to extricate herself from two wars that have required little notice or sacrifice of the American people.

Historically, with or without Constitutional restraints, the United States has been a nation reluctant to go to war. Recent history may cause you to greet that statement with a degree of cognitive dissonance. Perhaps more accurately, the American people have been reluctant to leave home and hearth to be soldiers, but more than willing when someone else is called upon to make the sacrifice. Soldiering gets in the way of the harvest or tending the herd (or in modern terms, watching football, yoga, and soccer practice), so better them then us.

The Abrams Legacy

Before Vietnam, this wasn’t the case and Drift is the story of how it became the case. Before the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, President Johnson had campaigned as the peace candidate, more interested in building the Great Society at home than sending American boys to fight someone else’s war in Southeast Asia. After that dubious provocation on the night of August 2, 1964, LBJ was looking for a way to send American boys to Southeast Asia without making people too angry. His solution was not to call up the reserves and National Guard, the part-time citizen soldiers whose dislocation was one of the reasons that American had been reluctant warriors. Deploying the nation’s plumbers and accountants is bound to disrupt a lot of lives, so the President better have a good reason. In place of the reservists and guardsmen, the Pentagon would use draftees to augment the regular troops.

This is why George W. Bush’s Air National Guard post was a cushy shield against going to Vietnam. It should not have been. Poppy Bush’s little boy and his squadron should have been on the way to Hanoi with the rest of the troops. If he had been, if the units deployed to Vietnam had included the Reserve and the National Guard, the war probably would have been a lot shorter and much more unpopular much sooner. We might not have needed to wait for the Tet Offensive to see the clusterfuck under way.

This is did not please General Creighton Abrams, successor to William Westmoreland as commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam (and whose name graces our M1 battle tank). When Abrams become Army Chief of Staff, he instituted the Total Force Policy, or “Abrams Doctrine,” which intertwined the Regular Army, Reserves and National Guard units in such a way that it would be impossible for the United States to go to war the same way it had in Vietnam, to ensure that war disrupted the normal lives of the citizen soldiers. And it worked for almost two decades.

Drift documents how both the Abrams doctrine, and the authority of Congress to declare war, were undermined in the intervening years. Conspiracy theorists may see plots within plots behind the executive power grabs of the Reagan/Bush and Bush/Cheney years, but the reality portrayed by Maddow is both scarier and sadder. It just sort of happened, for both good reasons and bad.

Imperial Teflon

Probably without knowing it, Maddow credits Ronald Reagan with inventing the “reality distortion field” that Steve Jobs would go on to perfect. The world was however Reagan convinced himself to see it, facts often be damned. Such well-known liberal stalwarts as William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, and John Wayne registered frustration and exasperation at the Great Communicator’s version of the facts.

Perhaps this ability to filter reality to his own liking, as much as the need to distract the public from the degenerating situation in Lebanon, where 299 people had just died in a suicide truck bombing, allowed Reagan to see a Soviet/Cuban plot behind the plan to build a new airport on the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada. In the invasion that followed, U.S. forces proved to be their own worst enemy, doing more damage to each other than the opposing forces managed to do. The mission to rescue the medical students who were in danger of being hostages ran into a couple snags. They weren’t all where the U.S. government thought they’d be (and the soldiers probably needed tourist maps to the places the students actually were). The students were also mostly unaware that they needed rescuing.

Congress was upset that they weren’t informed almost until the Rangers were hitting the beach and they asserted the War Powers Resolution to compel President Reagan to bring the troops home. Reagan was annoyed that Congress was poking their noses into his presidential prerogative to conduct foreign policy as he saw fit. He was also exasperated that neither Congress nor the American people appreciated the threat represented by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. To the Reagan administration, Daniel Ortega was just another Fidel Castro without the cigar and the beard, and his government represented a Soviet foothold in Central America.

Prehaps still annoyed about Grenada, Congress had specifically barred the Executive branch from using U.S. funds to support the Contra guerillas fighting the Sandinistas. Fully buying into the “Nixon doctrine,” that if the President does something in the name of national security, it’s not illegal, Reagan got creative. He attempted to privatize the Contra war, funding it with proceeds from the ill-advised, ill-fated and thoroughly illegal sales of weapons to Iran in the quixotic, forlorn hope of securing the release of American hostages in Lebanon.

That the Iran/Contra affair did not bring down the Reagan White House is beside the point, because it was the aftermath that mattered. The effort to justify their actions produced some truly creative legal writing from Attorney General Ed Meese, in much the same way that tax evasion produces some truly creative accounting, laying the groundwork for the “Imperial Presidency” with regards to foreign policy.

The Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq: War for Hire

Future administrations would refine this over the years in the run-up to the first Iraq war (really the Kuwait war) in 1991, the war in Afghanistan after 9/11 in 2001, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Maddow asserts that Congress meekly acquiesced to the Presidents Bush, especially with regard to our wars in Iraq. Her detractors might point out that the president did seek and get Congressional approval for their actions, so their role in warmaking is not as weakened as the author suggests. Maddow believes that the administrations did little more than allow Congress to approve what was already inevitable. Both Bushes backed Congress into a political corner and left them with but one “patriotic” option. Agree or disagree, you can’t say she makes a weak or half-hearted argument for her position.

The erosion of the Abrams doctrine was a fringe benefit of the end of the Cold War and the draw down of U.S. forces with no global enemy left to fight, or so we thought. There would other conflicts in Somalia and the Balkans during the 90s. The Mogadishu debacle documented in Black Hawk Down left the country skittish about committing U.S. troops to another war zone.

At the same time, Vice-president Al Gore was launching a much-touted initiative to streamline government, making it leaner and meaner at all levels. One of these programs sought to make the military more cost-effective by assigning some job functions, such as those most often done in war time by reservists and National Guardsmen, to private contractors.

When Croatia and Bosnia pleaded for help in holding off the Serbian ethnic cleansing onslaught, it was not politically feasible for the Clinton Administration to send American troops or other forms of direct U.S. military aid. The capacity to use contractors, however, allowed the President’s foreign policy team to side-step the normal political and constitutional hurdles.

It was not without positive results. After having their clocks thoroughly cleaned by the Serbs in battle, the Croatians faced their enemy one last time, but now with the advantage of new training from a private military contractor with a large number of former U.S. officers on staff. The difference in the results was eye-opening. The Croats not only routed the Serbs, but independent observers remarked that their battle plan looked suspiciously American in character, as if H. Norman Schwarzkopf himself had defected to Croatia and joined their army.

[types field=”author-phonto” alt=”RachelMaddow” title=”RachelMaddow” size=”medium” align=”left” resize=”proportional”][/types]

There were a few snags in the new U.S. love affair with military contractors. They were not all that cost-effective and on one troubling occasion, employees of a specific contractor were regular customers of Serbian sex traffickers. This was offset by the flexibility they gave the chief executive when it came to waging war. The presence of these contractors undermined the Abrams doctrine by making the reserves and National Guard superfluous to the support role, but it also freed them up to act as regular combat troops in a way they had never been before, or at least not since WWII.

Maddow makes her case methodically and is never afraid to get wonky with her facts. She delivers her facts with the same cheerfully snarky attitude familiar to her TV viewers. Some critics have huffed that this sort of insolence is inappropriate for such a serious subject. But this is Rachel Maddow’s voice, and for her to deliver her point with the same somber sobriety of Dan Rather would be as dissonant as Rather himself reading the news wearing a spiked, rainbow-hued Mohawk.

I didn’t need a lot of persuading as to Maddow’s depiction of the current status of our national security posture, and the fact that the CIA is now a de facto, virtually unsupervised arm of the military was not news to me. Drift’s primary value to me was its cogent, reasoned, and detailed explanation as to how we got to where we are.

The word “Kafkaesque” is probably used most liberally by those who have never actually read that author’s work, while those who have done so often possess more effective means of appearing erudite. Therefore, I will show sufficient humility to refrain from using it to describe the life of Salman Rushdie after Valentine’s Day, 1989, even though the term seems to have been lying in wait to ambush the Indian-born author after the publication of his novel, The Satanic Verses.

The title of this memoir refers to the alias that Rushdie adopted during the years that he was under the smothering embrace of the Special Branch of Scotland Yard. It is a mash-up of Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. During the years of the protective detail, or “prot,” the officers responsible for his safety always called him “Joe,” and never addressed him by his actual name. In many ways, this book is the biography of three men, the private Salman, the fictitious Anton, and an equally false public Rushdie, a unpleasant fellow who brought the whole mess on himself, then insisted the British taxpayers pay for police protection to satisfy his own monumental ego. The public Rushdie become a popular whipping boy of the British press, which never seemed to let facts get in the way of a good vendetta.

The early part of this book details Rushdie’s boyhood in India and his arrival in Britain to attend Rugby School, an English public school where he was too smart, too unathletic, and too non-white to be accepted, and was thus miserable. He survived Rugby to attend King’s College before being accepted to read history at Cambridge. It was there, where he was perhaps the only student to take on a research study on Islamic History, that the seeds of The Satanic Verses were planted.

After making a living after college as an advertising copy writer, Rushdie finally broke in 1980 through with his novel, Midnight’s Children, which established him as a significant author, followed by Shame in 1983. These novels explored the Indian and Pakistani halves of his heritage respectively. The Satanic Verses explored his family’s Islamic background. Much of the first quarter of the memoir is dedicated to illustrating how a godless man with a deep fascination for religion could write the novel that would turn his own world upside down and inside out.

What is clear, and what I will let the reader to discover for him or herself, is that the book that was reviled and condemned by the Ayatollah Khomeini on February 14, 1989, bore little resemblance to the book that Rushdie actually published, much like the author’s life after that date bore little resemblance to anything experienced by any another human being.

Fortunately, the experience of being targeted for death by a global effort to suppress free expression in the name of rigid religious dogma did not rob the author of his sense of humor, as Joseph Anton is full of the absurd details of Rushdie’s after the fatwa. At first, he moves from home to home, each one rented in someone else name, as the author is forced to hide in bathrooms whenever a repairman comes by to fix anything. He must negotiate with the police for privileges that most of us regard as the mundane details of everyday life. A stroll around the block is virtually out of the question and dinner with friends takes on the characteristics of a military campaign. Great pains must be taken to conceal not only the identity of the person living in the house, but also the presence of four armed officers living with him.

In addition to his forced seclusion, Rushdie also faces the hostility of the outside world. Beyond the unwavering wrath of the Iranian imams and the Islamic world at large, there is also the cheerfully bloodthirsty Islamic population of Great Britain, including some members of Parliament, who speak of the author’s murder with the same casual enthusiasm that the rest of us discuss plans to holiday in the Caribbean. He also has to deal with the stunning ignorance of homegrown politicians, who treat Rushdie as an embarrassment who brought the whole thing on himself and doesn’t deserve their support or sympathy.

In the early years, Rushdie’s effort to rally support from the Thatcher government in the United Kingdom and the Bush administration in the United States is frustrated by both countries’ reluctance to antagonize Iran when they are seeking Tehran’s cooperation to free the Hezbollah hostages in Lebanon. In effect, the author becomes just another hostage, albeit one held in his own home.

Joseph Anton is full of accounts of staggeringly craven cowardice on the parts of governments, businesses, and even within his own publishers, who blanch at the thought of releasing a paperback edition of The Satanic Verses. The book also contains many more accounts of courage and principle, of friends who protect his secret, of fellow authors and publishers who coalesce into a global campaign against not only the fatwa, but also against the efforts to quash freedom of expression inspired by the Iranian atrocity. Among many things, the book is a heartfelt expression of gratitude toward the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way on Rushdie’s behalf.

The author does not spare us many details about his occasionally complicated personal life, either. At the time of The Satanic Verses, Rushdie has already been married for the second time, and the marriage is already in trouble. He remains on good terms, however, with Clarissa, his first wife and mother of his first son, Zafar. Joseph Anton is in many ways a love letter to the boy and young man who would be the author’s one reliable source of joy during the fatwa years.

[types field=”author-phonto” alt=”Salman Rushdie” title=”Salman Rushdie” size=”medium” align=”right” resize=”proportional”][/types]

It may seem like an odd choice, but Rushdie wrote his memoir in the third person, referring to himself mostly as “he” and “him.” I think it helps the author keep the necessary distance to remain objective about his failings, such as his misguided attempts to end the fatwa during the early years by mollifying the British Muslim community. None of these lapses were more glaring than the end of his third marriage to Elizabeth, who selflessly sustained him through the fatwa years and gave him a second son. Their marriage is strained by the author’s desire to live in New York, where he can escape the smothering security bumble, and her desire to remain in the UK and have more children. He abandons her for a young, beautiful, and hopelessly narcissistic Indian-born American actress, who ultimately become his fourth failed marriage. Rushdie is certainly a man who knows how to complicate his own life, although he was completely innocent of the most drastic complication.

I often wonder if those who were responsible were aware of the damage they did to Islam in the eyes of the outside world. Between The Satanic Verses controversy, the Danish cartoon affair and the YouTube video last year, what Rushdie calls the “professional outrage industry” within the Muslim world has succeed mostly in creating an image of Islam as a hysterical and irrational religion. Their sensitivity to slights toward their prophet also shows contempt for the man they claim to revere. Whatever one thinks of Islam, its founder managed to change the shape of his world, almost by sheer force of will, within a single lifetime. Christianity can’t make that claim. The prophet Mohammed does not need to be defended with such bloodthirsty earnest. He is a significant and important figure in history, but the actions of his more ardent followers in recent times have done more to sully their prophet’s reputation than anything Salman Rushdie could have written, even if he had actually been trying to commit blasphemy.

I am probably not among the target readership for Timothy Kurek’s The Cross in the Closet, a memoir of the year that the formerly conservative Evangelical Christian spent posing as a gay man, confronting his own ingrained biases and stereotypes. As one of those irreligious sorts for whom Kurek’s personal revelations aren’t really news, I’m not the one he needs to convince.

The author is clearly addressing himself to those whose views and values he used to share, friends who vanished from his life almost the instant he announced he was gay, those who see that word as a label for wickedness, and not just a description.

But even for those who come into the book already agreeing with Kurek’s thesis, the book also manages to humanize rather than demonize those inside the orthodox evangelical community, even though the author admits that was a struggle after several months living inside the small LGBT community in Nashville, Tennessee.

The yearlong odyssey was not, as some media reports have simplistically reported, a straight-forward exercise of a conservative Southern Christian pretending to be gay, seeing how the “other half” lives. I’m not entirely certain Kurek knew, going in, exactly what he was going to accomplish. He seemed to be guided by a relatively unformed idea that this was something he had to do.

By the time his friend, Elizabeth, comes out as a lesbian and is rejected by her religiously devout family, Kurek was already experiencing doubts about the dogmatic and judgmental side of his faith, so her revelation was less of a “road to Damascus” moment than a final straw. His decision to go “undercover” in Nashville’s gay community initially seems a little impetuous, even though it takes him a few months to build up the courage and take the final step of “coming out” to his family. He had plenty of time to change his mind, to not go forward with his experiment, and went ahead anyway. That is probably as good a definition of commitment as your liable to read.

And Kurek went to the whole Magilla, coming out as gay to everyone he knows, not only worrying about the reactions of those closest to him, but also struggling with the knowledge that he is effectively lying to them. He also has to face the fact that he will not only spend a year living side-by-side with people he has been raised to fear, pity, and loathe, but will have to suppress his inclinations as a straight male.

In effect, Kurek is in the closet for the year, hiding his true self from those closet to him, although the similarity breaks down for the simple reason that Kurek’s closet was entirely voluntary. He wasn’t forced into it by fear, fear of losing friends, family, and professional standing.

The story is refreshingly direct about Kurek’s relative naivete about his adopted community as he ventures tentatively into a gay bar and into the midst of people he has been taught to both despise and pity. Through his eyes, the stereotypes fall away and vivid individuals emerge from the haze as his is accepted into their midst. They were where he was, or somewhere like it, at some time in their past. One might suspect that we’re seeing these people through slightly rose-tinted glasses, but this book is directed toward those who don’t need any help to see gay people negatively.

What Kurek finds in a community as diverse in its opinions as the straight world he thought he was leaving behind. To his surprise, he finds an unexpected level of spirituality, often in the form with which he was already familiar. He also finds people uncommonly accepting and generous. One gets the feeling that the author begins to feel more comfortable and free to be himself (save for the not being gay part) here than he did in his old, “real” life.

The author is refreshingly candid about the struggles he experiences, the stress of isolation from family and friends. Even though he retains a cordial relationship with his mother and brother, the nature of his experiment necessarily keeps them at arm’s length (and when the brother prematurely learns the truth, those familial bonds are temporarily fractured). The strains take their toll, leading to bouts of depression and drinking.

When you consider that Kurek, by his own admission, is experiencing but a fraction of the stress and loneliness many gay people must feel, one can only imagine the depths of depression that can result from a closeted life (or even an open one). If The Cross in the Closet increases our collective empathy for that reality just a little, moves the needle even a bit, than the book will have served a real purpose of immeasurable value.

Kurek writes with the same sort of earnest voice that I imagine he used when once asking people if they’d accepted Jesus into their lives. To a godless old heathen like myself, this could seem cloying, until you consider that any other voice would be inauthentic. Moreover, this is probably the voice best suited to reach his ideal reader: the indoctrinated religious conservative who has yet to question the orthodox position on gays. My customary level of snark would only have created an unbridgeable distance.

It’s gratifying to see the attention this book has received, most of it overwhelmingly positive, from mainstream media, the gay community, and even from the more mentally flexible corners of Christianity. The book landed the author on the set of The View and he even received a glowing notice from no less a figure than Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Desmond bleeping Tutu. Holy bleeping bleep.

Even more heartening, Kurek’s circle of friends in Nashville’s LGBT community reacted very positively to the author’s news that, no, he wasn’t really gay. He mended fences with his brother and, all in all, the book’s ending is as positive as its message.

Kurek’s experiment hasn’t been totally free of criticism, mostly from those who question the “deceit” in his approach. It’s instructive that none of the negative reaction seems to come from those who know the author personally.

[types field=”author-phonto” alt=”tim_headshot” title=”tim_headshot” size=”full” align=”right”][/types]The most perplexing of these criticisms accused the author of perpetuating “transphobia.” I’m going to assume that this is fear of the transgendered and not trans fats or Neil Young’s 1982 electonica album. This must be referring to his brief encounter with a woman named Angela, who used to be a man named Albert. This person is among the most positively portrayed in the whole book. One finishes this passage and hopes that, if one ever has a transgendered friend, that person will have their shit together as well as Angela/Albert. Exactly what stereotype this section perpetuates is beyond me.

But even if that critic’s analysis had any validity, what I find disturbing is that person’s suggestion that LGBT readers reject the book as whole because, as positive as the book is, it fail’s to live up to one person’s standards of cultural sensitivity. That’s cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Some have asked why the author had to do things the way he did, why he couldn’t just reach out and ask the questions to which he needed answers. That’s a valid approach, too, but the freedom to be one’s self includes the freedom to find one’s answers in one’s own way. If Timothy Kurek had done things differently, then this book might not have existed. That would have been a shame.

The Cross in the Closet is a forthright and honest account of one man’s sincere effort to increase his own understanding of the human condition. It would be a significant contribution to the conversation even if it weren’t well-written and told a compelling story. It is all these things.

Walter Isaacson walks the fine line between presenting an unvarnished portrait of Steve Jobs, the deeply flawed human being, and still remaining an Apple fanboy at heart.

The best parts of this book come early, as we see the roots of the maniacal self-confidence fed by indulgent adoptive parents, who cater to his whims, even to the point of sending him to a college they can ill afford and not complaining when he drops out.

There’s little doubt that Jobs was a genius on many levels, but as Isaacson makes clear, his ability to simply ignore reality he found inconvenient was a mixed blessing at best. It allowed him to drive his engineers, designers, and programmers to exceed their expectations for themselves, but it also made him a bad father to his first daughter, Lisa, and in the case of his cancer, was his ultimate downfall.

After a while, Isaacson’s portrayal of Jobs shows a genuinely unpleasant human being, manipulative, selfish, cruel, demanding, sometimes dishonest, and always emotionally fragile, whose only redeeming quality appears to be his ability to visualize the future better than anyone. After a few repetitions of Jobs being Jobs, one begins to react the same way people who knew him probably did. “There he goes again.” A miracle that Isaacson cannot explain is how Jobs retained the loyalty of those he terrorized and abused.

The real meat of the book for Apple fans is Isaacson’s account of the early days of Apple, from the Homebrew computer club through Apple I and Apple II, then on to the Macintosh and Jobs’ ouster by John Scully.

The book’s account of the founding of Pixar is also fascinating, describing how Jeff Katzenberg’s misguided input almost destroyed Toy Story before it got off the ground, as well as Jobs’ behind the scenes role is saving it and, ultimately, Pixar.

Jobs’ return to Apple is the iCEO at his most Jobsian. In retrospect, his claims that he didn’t want to be back at the help seem hollow, as he was clearly engineering the ouster of Gil Amelio to pave way for his own ascendency.

As the story gets closer and closer to the present, Isaacson’s insights into Jobs’ business success get less and less compelling, if only because he lacks the perspective on more recent times that he has on the development of the Mac, just like we all do.

If you are at all interested in the history of computer revolution, this book is essential reading, although it hardly describes a human being who could or should be emulated.

View all my reviews