Monday, October 24, 2011

Strict Pick: STEVE JOBS by Walter Isaacson

About a week ago, someone blogged the following quote from Neil Gaiman on tumblr:

Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that - but you are the only you.

Tarantino - you can criticize everything that Quentin does - but nobody writes Tarantino stuff like Tarantino. He is the best Tarantino writer there is, and that was actually the thing that people responded to - they’re going ‘this is an individual writing with his own point of view’.

There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better - there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.
I reblogged it almost at once, but it's had me thinking ever since. I strict-picked Liesl & Po in part because there was this beautiful authenticity to it. It is a book that from every corner sings from the heart. No one can write a Lauren Oliver middle grade novel the way Lauren Oliver can.

And this week, I'm strict-picking for the same reason. Say what you want about being born at exactly the right moment or having teams of fabulous designers, but Steve Jobs was an unbelievable authentic. According to the People magazine article commemorating him, he once showed up at a black-tie dinner wearing black jeans and his turtleneck. This was a man who knew how to be Steve Jobs, how to design stuff like Steve Jobs, and how to produce things that looked like they came from Steve Jobs. That's why, TIME magazine stopped their presses, and people designed tributes, and fans of his products brought wreaths, not to his home, but simply to the stores where they bought his products.

Steve Jobs was amazing at being Steve Jobs.

When we found out Jobs died, and the following morning got in our giant poster and our table-top displays for his book release in November, I thought that there might be a chance of a press-stoppage there. I didn't know how big the print run was on these books, and how feasible it might be to stop the run, put in an afterword, and run it again, or how much would be expected to be made on these. But instead they moved up the date.

I don't expect the Jobs biography to reveal a saint; in fact, it sounds from the interviews that he was as much of an abrasive taskmaster as he was a sensitive visionary. But what I hope it will reveal is a sense of authenticity that we lose sight of so quickly and easily.  I'm guessing we'll see a guy who was committed to creating the things that felt like his creations, no matter what the public had to say about whether they would fit the mold.

I'm gearing up for National Novel Writing Month at the moment, and trying to nail down my final plot idea for my story. It's hard to do, I find, with a book seeking an agent and another in edits--I'm so preoccupied with what the market wants and does my YA voice sound real and is my protagonist the right age, and will such-and-such agent like it that I'm finding it a little harder than usual to grasp the basic kernels of an idea.

But what I keep trying to remind myself is that the focus can't be on the book that will sell, or the book that will adheres to this thing or that thing that is topical or timely. Steve Jobs was rarely topical or timely, and the same is true of Gaiman. They succeed because they step in places they wanted to step. They succeed because they are authentic. So, I'm searching this week for an idea for a Jessica Schley book. Because no one writes Jessica Schley books like I do.

And while I'll bet the iPhone on my charger that Apple will continue to flourish, nobody else is going to be Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs at Powell's
Steve Jobs at Amazon
Steve Jobs at Barnes & Noble

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