Walter Isaacson, who has written critically acclaimed biographies of Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin and more, will release his next tome, focused on Elon Musk on September 12.
Simon & Schuster has started taking preorders for the 688-page book that, based on the preview the publisher offered, seems to offer a sympathetic look at the controversial owner of Twitter, Tesla and SpaceX.
“When Elon Musk was a kid in South Africa, he was regularly beaten by bullies,” the book’s Website reads. “One day a group pushed him down some concrete steps and kicked him until his face was a swollen ball of flesh. He was in the hospital for a week. But the physical scars were minor compared to the emotional ones inflicted by his father, an engineer, rogue, and charismatic fantasist.”
That childhood, the publisher says, left a lasting impact on Musk’s psyche, turning him into “a tough yet vulnerable man-child, prone to abrupt Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings, with an exceedingly high tolerance for risk, a craving for drama, an epic sense of mission, and a maniacal intensity that was callous and at times destructive.”
Musk and Isaacson agreed to work together on the bio in 2021—and Musk Tweeted news of the book roughly 20 minutes after they had spoken, before Isaacson’s agent was even aware. (In that same thread, Musk did not rule out writing his own autobiography one day.)
Isaacson spent the next two years attending meetings with Musk, speaking with his friends, family and rivals, and shadowing him as he went about his day.
At the beginning of last year, Simon & Schuster says, as he was secretly buying shares of Twitter, Musk told Isaacson: “I need to shift my mindset away from being in crisis mode, which it has been for about fourteen years now, or arguably most of my life.”
Isaacson previously previewed the book in an interview with Kara Swisher and indicated Musk’s childhood would be an overriding them in his exploration of the entrepreneur.
“We start the book with this astonishingly difficult childhood in South Africa with a father who is Darth Vader and who still is still alive, but haunts Elon every day,” he said.
He also indicated he was braced for criticism about how Musk is portrayed.
“[He’s] the most interesting person on the planet right now doing the most interesting things and driving people crazy in the process,” said Isaacson. “And I’m just there to tell a narrative story that helps you understand it. It explains why things happened. And there’ll be people who say, ‘Oh, you explained it, so you are justifying this or that or the other.’ … I’m gonna get a lot of that.”