Memoirs and Steve Jobs tributes need to be realistic

Steve Jobs was brilliant, pushing the innovation envelope to bring us all sorts of fast and fun toys that happened to also be great for business, but he was also a driven man not always pleasant to be around. With his death, people are gushing and singing praises of someone they don’t seem to know very well. Steve Jobs: A Memoir, written by top biographer Walter Isaacson, is being rushed into production now and will hopefully give a clearer picture to the world of the real Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs: A Memoir is perhaps more of a biography based on many interviews with Steve and those who knew him. To his credit, book notes say he asked for no control over the book and “encouraged people he knew to speak honestly,” just as he often spoke honestly (often “brutally”) to others. Steve was a complex man, well worth praise, but – let’s be honest as he would wish – not a particularly nice guy. And that adds a lot to his character and mystique.

In memoir and other forms of lifewriting, it is important to be honest with yourself and others. Painting a glorious picture of yourself as a sweet, loving person – or a successful businessman – with no faults is pretty bland, not to mention readers may not recognize you. Everyone has faults, from huge to mostly foibles. These make you the unique person you are, preventing you from being a cookie-cutter mold of some fairy tale goodie-goodie. Come to think of it, there aren’t many fairy-tale goodie-goodies, and for good reason; the most interesting characters in a story are the bad guys, followed by the hero/heroine who saves the day. If you’re going to leave an impression on readers, you’re going to have to come across as a human being who makes mistakes, has peculiarities, has problems to overcome. And you’re not a robot, so show some emotion. Don’t be afraid; since none of us readers are perfect we can relate to you better if you don’t pretend to be perfect. The less perfect, the more we can relate!

So why did this intensely private man agree to two years worth of personal interviews for a biography? “I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.” ( For better or worse, Steve Jobs was three-dimensional, maybe even fourth if you consider he will live on through time through his products, his methods, his quotes, and those scars he left on people’s psyches.

Linda Austin
“Cherry Blossoms in Twilight”


About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
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