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Published Friday, July 28, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News



Author replows old ground on Jobs and Apple

Mercury News

WHEN he set out to write ``The Second Coming of Steve Jobs,'' 301 pages about Silicon Valley's ultimate phoenix figure, author Alan Deutschman says he was looking for Steve Jobs the person, not the icon.

Right there, Swing Shift got nervous.

``I set out to discover the deep sources of his character and motivation,'' he writes in the preface. ``I strived to find out where he got his unusual ideas about leadership, management and the creative process.''

Ugh. We read on, and on, and on, trying -- striving, even -- to answer the question: Besides the people Jobs tormented along the way, who really cares?

The last 15 years of Jobs' journey have been chronicled ad nauseum in newspapers (including this one), magazines, TV documentaries and books. And now this.

Coming on the heels of so many other ``inside'' Silicon Valley stories, including Michael Lewis' stellar portrayal of Netscape's Jim Clark, Deutschman's effort -- done without Jobs' consent or cooperation -- seems forced and filled with trivia.

The biography, told in breathless Hollywood style, is due out from Broadway Books in September. It opens in 1985, with just after the close of Jobs' first reign at Apple Computer Inc. Jobs, stripped of his power in a boardroom coup by John Sculley, is depressed, angry and defiant. According to one friend, he is also possibly suicidal. He dreams of escape: He'd like to fly on one of the space shuttles. He considers running for U.S. Senate in California. Oy!

Eventually, Jobs returns to reality, starts his next company called, yes, NeXT, assembles Pixar Animation Studios, and ultimately retakes the Apple throne. Along the way, he tries, unsuccessfully, to win over the staff at Pixar. (Deutschman, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair and a former Silicon Valley correspondent for Fortune, claims Jobs also tried to push award-winning director John Lasseter out of Pixar, to no avail.) We hear about his strong-willed girlfriends; a bout with bulimia; his envy of Bill Gates; his insulting behavior (toward Heidi Roizen! Shame on him!) and his unorthodox route to the marital altar. No wonder officials at Apple declined to comment on the book.

RETURN TO SUNNYVALE: It started as a social history of Silicon Valley, but ended up a story about growing up in Sunnyvale, his family, and the line between success and failure. That's what writer and former resident Jeff Goodell told a crowd at Barnes & Noble in San Jose this week during a stop to promote his memoir, ``Sunnyvale'' (Villard Books, 252 pages; $24.95). During a 90-minute appearance, Goodell read from his book, then took questions from the audience of about 75, mostly middle-aged, mostly white guys.

Unlike stops in Seattle or Washington, D.C., where readers are ``fascinated'' by Silicon Valley, Goodell said he felt some trepidation appearing a stone's throw from his hometown. ``I was a little uneasy about that; it doesn't exactly come out as a love note to Sunnyvale,'' said the author.

Goodell, who visits the valley regularly, still has praise for its energy, creativity and optimism, but questions the way money has changed its values. And it didn't happen overnight. ``I remember being 15 years old standing near El Camino, hearing a weird rumble, and seeing a Ferrari convertible and thinking, `What is a Ferrari convertible doing in Sunnyvale?' ''

CYBERSELFISH IN S.F.: During a recent San Francisco appearance at Ruby Skye hosted by Gracenet, a Bay Area woman's networking group, author and commentator Paulina Borsook read from her latest work, ``Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech,'' (PublicAffairs; 267 pages; $24). It's an intimidating title, but shouldn't be. The contrarian author, who has written for Wired, Mother Jones and Salon.com, among others, basically throws cold water on all that is overheated in our valley of hype, pointing out the hypocrisies of the digerati. ``It's stuff about this culture (people) don't like, and it articulates it for them,'' said Borsook.

The Swing Shift is a weekly column about the off-hours of Silicon Valley. Send your ideas, tips and invitations to TheSwingShift@sjmercury.com. Contact Michelle Quinn at (408) 920-5749 and Tracy Seipel at (408) 920-5343.
paulina b.

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