From the early archives: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Celebrating four years of blogging – and sharing some early book reviews!

stevejobsSteve Jobs
by
Walter Isaacson

Rating:
4 book marks

This biography gives us the full picture of Steve Jobs, good and bad. It is a detailed history of Jobs, his life and his creations at Apple, NeXT, Pixar and Apple again. And it’s a look at the impatient frustrations of a perfectionist who, with the genius of vision and presentation, liked to distort reality, had poor people skills and thought no rules applied to him.

I don’t know what to think of Steve Jobs. He derived his happiness from creating and was driven to do so. Isaacson shows a man who manipulated people, berated them, and often ignored his wife and children. He regularly took credit for ideas that came from his creative team and rearranged facts to benefit his point, all with no regrets. But time and again he enabled people to achieve the impossible by refusing to believe that something could not be done.  The combination of persistence and genius made him a remarkable man.

AND…Steve Jobs gave us the Mac, fonts, graphics and desktop publishing. Then he gave us the iPhone, the iPod, iTunes and music. He allowed us to re-experience the feelings we used to have in record stores as we excitedly flipped through albums and heard new music on the store speakers. Then he gave us the iPad, movies and books all with a touchscreen. He knew what we wanted, just as he said, before we knew what we wanted.

This was a very interesting read. My only negative comment is that it was sometimes repetitive, particularly on the subjects of distorted reality and Jobs’ belief in closed-end product design. I also thought the author often portrayed Jobs as too much of a beloved hero in the second half of the book, once Jobs returned to Apple. But then again, that’s when we got all these great products. And I don’t think I could live without them!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland

The TranscriptionistThe Transcriptionist
by
Amy Rowland

Rating:

Lena Respass is alone in her job as a transcriptionist for the Record, a major New York newspaper. She’s the last of her profession, made almost completely unnecessary by technological advances, and she sits alone in a room on her building’s eleventh floor, transcribing called-in stories. Stories from Lena’s Dictaphone thread endlessly through her head, even when she’s not working, and they leave her numb and strangely uneasy.

When Lena sees a print story in the Record about Arlene Lebow, a woman who climbed into the lions’ den at the zoo and was killed, she recognizes her. It’s the same woman she recently sat next to on a city bus. She had talked with the Arlene, who was blind, and felt oddly connected to her. Was the woman trying to tell her something?

Lena becomes obsessed with the story and wants to understand why Arlene would choose to end her life in such a violent way. She desperately wants to give Arlene the honor of being remembered. Like the stories she transcribes, Arlene’s death fills Lena’s mind. And these thoughts begin to overlap Lena’s own feelings about being raised on a farm by a strict religious father, about her mother’s death and about the newspaper profession, which to her has taken an unattractive turn. The answers she finds don’t seem to help Lena, however. Instead, she becomes more and more removed from the people around her.

The Transcriptionist is an unusual combination: a story about an emotionally unsettled woman and a commentary on the business of reporting news, especially since 9/11. Right away, Rowland provides a view into the way things are in the newsroom, the hierarchies, the egos, and the competition. She also points to the inevitable technological changes that meet resistance, and it’s incorporated nicely into the plot, with a mysterious feel-good character. In addition, The Transcriptionist gives the reader an unflattering look at reporters’ motives. Do they want to report the news or create fame for themselves? Is it a newspaper’s job to fight the war on terrorism or should they just report the news?

This is Rowland’s debut novel and she knows her material. She’s spent over ten years working at the New York Times, much of it as a transcriptionist, and now as an editor in the Book Review section.

Rowland includes many literary references, which are built into Lena’s tendency to quote books and poetry. It’s one of the things that distances Lena from other people and, in a way, I think, from the reader. Lions and birds, especially pigeons and a predatory falcon, also figure prominently throughout the book, from the lion statues that sit outside the library, to the pigeon outside Lena’s office window, to the mountain lion on the loose during Lena’s childhood, and of course, the lion in the den. The lion and falcon references invite the reader to think about the instinct of killing in nature. The lion kills Arlene by this instinct, but her death leaves the animal, used to being fed, in limbo. Did Arlene’s suicide remind the lion of what its life could be?

I enjoyed reading The Transcriptionist. It’s very different from other books, so it was a nice change and it’s quick and easy. Its difference, however, makes it a bit of a quirky read. But I like books that make you think after you’ve finished and The Transcriptionist does that.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

 

What’s up next? The Transcriptionist, by Amy Rowland

The Transcriptionist

Today I started reading Amy Rowland’s debut novel, The Transcriptionist. It’s a story about Lena, who works as a transcriptionist for the Record, a big newspaper in New York. Lena works alone in a room on the eleventh floor, transcribing reporters’ stories. She’s the last of her profession at the paper, as technology has eliminated the need for people like her.

One day, Lena sees an article about a woman who was attacked and killed by lions in the city zoo. When she sees the unidentified woman’s picture in the paper, she realizes it’s someone she had met and talked to just a few days earlier while riding a city bus.

As she tries to understand why the woman, who was blind, would enter the lions’ den, Lena makes discoveries that question the nature of newspaper reporting at the Record. In the process, she faces personal challenges to break away from what she calls her “secondhand life.”

Amy Rowland worked as a transcriptionist for ten years at the New York Times. She currently works as an editor for the Book Review at the Times.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

stevejobsSteve Jobs
by
Walter Isaacson

Rating:

This biography gives us the full picture of Steve Jobs, good and bad. It is a detailed history of Jobs, his life and his creations at Apple, NeXT, Pixar and Apple again. And it’s a look at the impatient frustrations of a perfectionist who, with the genius of vision and presentation, liked to distort reality, had poor people skills and thought no rules applied to him.

I don’t know what to think of Steve Jobs. He derived his happiness from creating and was driven to do so. Isaacson shows a man who manipulated people, berated them, and often ignored his wife and children. He regularly took credit for ideas that came from his creative team and rearranged facts to benefit his point, all with no regrets. But time and again he enabled people to achieve the impossible by refusing to believe that something could not be done.  The combination of persistence and genius made him a remarkable man.

AND…Steve Jobs gave us the Mac, fonts, graphics and desktop publishing. Then he gave us the iPhone, the iPod, iTunes and music. He allowed us to re-experience the feelings we used to have in record stores as we excitedly flipped through albums and heard new music on the store speakers. Then he gave us the iPad, movies and books all with a touchscreen. He knew what we wanted, just as he said, before we knew what we wanted.

This was a very interesting read. My only negative comment is that it was sometimes repetitive, particularly on the subjects of distorted reality and Jobs’ belief in closed-end product design. I also thought the author often portrayed Jobs as too much of a beloved hero in the second half of the book, once Jobs returned to Apple. But then again, that’s when we got all these great products. And I don’t think I could live without them!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!