The day Steve Jobs called Walter Isaacson
In a special Time Magazine cover story, a preview of his forthcoming biography
For the seventh and perhaps the last time, Steve Jobs appears this week on the cover of Time Magazine, a special issue that includes a photo essay by Diana Walker, an Apple (AAPL) retrospective by Harry McCracken and Lev Grossman, and a six-page essay by Walter Isaccson, whose biography of Jobs — the first written with his cooperation — is being rushed to print on Oct. 24.
Isaacson’s Steve Jobs has been a bestseller on Amazon.com from the day it became available for preorder. In a preview of what’s to come, his essay describes the day Jobs pitched him the idea for the book:
In the early summer of 2004, I got a phone call from him. He had been scattershot friendly to me over the years, with occasional bursts of intensity, especially when he was launching a new product that he wanted on the cover of Time or featured on CNN, places where I’d worked. But now that I was no longer at either of those places, I hadn’t heard from him much. We talked a bit about the Aspen Institute, which I had recently joined, and I invited him to speak at our summer campus in Colorado. He’d be happy to come, he said, but not to be onstage. He wanted, instead, to take a walk so we could talk.
That seemed a bit odd. I didn’t yet know that taking a long walk was his preferred way to have a serious conversation. It turned out that he wanted me to write a biography of him. I had recently published one on Benjamin Franklin and was writing one about Albert Einstein, and my initial reaction was to wonder, half jokingly, whether he saw himself as the natural successor in that sequence. Because I assumed that he was still in the middle of an oscillating career that had many more ups and downs left, I demurred. Not now, I said. Maybe in a decade or two, when you retire.
But I later realized that he had called me just before he was going to be operated on for cancer for the first time. As I watched him battle that disease, with an awesome intensity combined with an astonishing emotional romanticism, I came to find him deeply compelling, and I realized how much his personality was ingrained in the products he created. His passions, demons, desires, artistry, devilry and obsession for control were integrally connected to his approach to business, so I decided to try to write his tale as a case study in creativity.
The issue is available here for subscribers.
See also: The man who won Steve Jobs’ trust.