“I have a secret. My father is Steve Jobs."
August 3, 2018 11:51 AM   Subscribe

In an excerpt from her upcoming memoir Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs shares what it felt like to be the daughter of the revered tech leader.

For a long time I hoped that if I played one role, my father would take the corresponding role. I would be the beloved daughter; he would be the indulgent father. I decided that if I acted like other daughters did, he would join in the lark. We’d pretend together, and in pretending we’d make it real. If I had observed him as he was, or admitted to myself what I saw, I would have known that he would not do this, and that a game of pretend would disgust him.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (34 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
What a disgusting way to treat your own child. Dreadful.
posted by zeoslap at 11:55 AM on August 3, 2018 [24 favorites]


I hate this trend of learning about good writers because they're detailing their pain at the hands of men.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 12:08 PM on August 3, 2018 [48 favorites]


Much additional info here.
posted by spilon at 12:20 PM on August 3, 2018


Christ, what a fucking asshole.
posted by klanawa at 12:25 PM on August 3, 2018 [8 favorites]


Christ, what a fucking asshole.

...and a choir of thousands of Apple fanboys cry out in unison, "...but the iPhone!"
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:41 PM on August 3, 2018 [5 favorites]


Ouch. My memory may be playing tricks, but I seem to remember back in the day Jobs saying that the Lisa was named after an old girlfriend.

This is going to be a tough read. But what a writer.
posted by queensissy at 12:43 PM on August 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


Why, exactly, is/was Jobs a "revered tech leader"?

He always seemed like a giant dick to me. The whole don't-register-your-car thing. Is it because he's not dorky like Woz?
posted by notsnot at 1:35 PM on August 3, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm sure this will be a great book, but this is hardly news about Jobs. Every bio written about him goes into some amount of detail on how he basically disowns Lisa and what a shit he is.

I don't really wish Jobs any ill-will post-mortem, but the fact that he basically though he could outsmart cancer is basically a reflection of how he lived his entire life.
posted by GuyZero at 1:36 PM on August 3, 2018 [26 favorites]


Why, exactly, is/was Jobs a "revered tech leader"?

He ran the company that produced the seminal personal computer and it's sequel which had a cult following.

Also he would take credit for literally anything and people went along with it.
posted by GuyZero at 1:37 PM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]




What a monster of a father.

Interestingly, Steve Jobs half sister is another good writer, Mona Simpson. They discovered each other as adults and it appeared they had a cordial relationship and Simpson wrote a fictional verison of him in her novels. According to the Wikipedia article, Jobs, who was given up for adoption as a baby, eventually sought out his birth mother and from her got in touch with Simpson. However he never ever tried to contact his own birth father, despite knowing that he could easily do so through Simpson.
posted by Pantalaimon at 1:53 PM on August 3, 2018


Fuck Steve Jobs
posted by gnuhavenpier at 2:04 PM on August 3, 2018 [7 favorites]


Terrible things happen to a person when significantly more than one person's worth of social power is allotted to them, and those terrible things in turn makes that person terrible, and the sort of people who seek out that amount of social power tend to be in some way or another damaged to start with. Wealth is a scourge.

What must it have been like to be Steve Jobs? To see Bono, of all people, to see that self-important pop star as a real person worth impressing... while seeing his own daughter as a nonentity, as not-quite-human?

Christ. What sad old world, that has such creatures in it.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:08 PM on August 3, 2018 [15 favorites]


To see Bono, of all people, to see that self-important pop star as a real person worth impressing... while seeing his own daughter as a nonentity

That was a rather ambiguous conversation. You could read it as his not wanting to embarrass her in front of a famous stranger by denying the connection. Although other takes are certainly plausible.

But, yeah, Bono is a Famous Man who reflects Fame back at him, his daughter is just a potential financial liability.
posted by praemunire at 2:52 PM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


Why would he suddenly care whether he embarrassed her? It seems more likely to me that he thought Bono would think less of him (Steve) if he answered "no". I doubt he cared how she felt, he just didn't want Bono wondering "how can this guy be so cold to his own daughter?"
posted by Lexica at 3:17 PM on August 3, 2018 [12 favorites]


That’s how I took it, too. Hell, maybe he lied to Bono just to save face. But it wasn’t about caring about his daughter.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:40 PM on August 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah Bono is famously a guy who takes care of people and to whom family is important. I imagine he would have been shocked if Jobs had answerted differently.

The stepmother sounds terrible too, makes you wonder what the kids they raised together are like.
posted by fshgrl at 3:50 PM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


Jobs has always sounded like a deeply unpleasant person. This excerpt only entrenches my feelings about him.

(Her stepmother and half-siblings wouldn't even acknowledge her greetings in passing at Jobs' house? A whole family of assholes. Poor Lisa.)
posted by 41swans at 4:23 PM on August 3, 2018 [8 favorites]


I am eager to read the rest of the book to learn more about her half siblings. She lived there for a time, seemed integrated into their family in at least some way. What happened between then and when Jobs was dying? Or was it always so cold?
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 4:26 PM on August 3, 2018


I fell down the rabbit hole a little and found this nugget about Brennan-Jobs' aunt and Steve Jobs' sister, writer Mona Simpson.

Simpson married the television writer and producer Richard Appel in 1993 and had two children, Gabriel and Grace. Appel, a writer for The Simpsons, named the character Mona Simpson after his wife, beginning with the episode "Mother Simpson."

Mona and Jobs were full siblings - I can't imagine what that would be like, to be adopted, and then to find out your two bio-parents had another child, and that one they kept. It did sound like they had a warm relationship, and that Simpson helped Jobs and Lisa reconcile, when Lisa was nine.
posted by 41swans at 4:35 PM on August 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


I know this isn't really what she's after, but if this bit of posterity helps, I love the Lisa (computer)! It's a fantastic hobby machine: complexity-wise, just about as intricate a computer as can fit comfortably into any one person's head. Needs frequent maintenance but so does a vintage car; same thing, deep down. Even now there's still stuff to learn about; they tried so hard, and they did everything from scratch. I'm not the only one to think so...
posted by tss at 5:09 PM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


At Apple outside the Lisa group, it was generally said that the computer was named after Jobs’ “illegitimate” daughter. It was unspoken as to why it was named that. But there were rumors. Guilt? An admittance that she actually existed? A favor to her? Who knew. Nothing positive about him in any of the explanations. Not being in the part of Apple managed by Jobs, we had a more realistic view of him. Asshole was the general term. From my own background in Religious Studies, the Macintosh development group had all the earmarks of a cult. A charismatic leader who made all the final decisions, all personal validation came from him alone, and the idea that they were going to change the world. During the 80’s Apple was an amazing place to be, and away from the Macintosh group, we had a much more critical opinion of Jobs. After the first Mac shipped and the original development group started to break apart while Jobs was slowly pushed out, stories from within the group started to come out within the company. Unpleasant mainly. I’ve avoided the Apple history books, especially the ones praising his “genius.” Can’t say I would read this one, but I’m glad she has a voice now in the history and a little more reality can be part of the story.
posted by njohnson23 at 6:52 PM on August 3, 2018 [19 favorites]


Christ, what a fucking asshole.
...and a choir of thousands of Apple fanboys cry out in unison, "...but the iPhone!"


This literally happened when I posted this on my FB wall with an observation that he was a towering arsehole.

The thing that frustrates me most, is he barely deservez lionising by their tiny criteria. He almost bankrupted the company, was fired, none of his products were the first of their kind, screwed his friends colleagues and family over. Ugh. He is marketing genius, mostly.
posted by smoke at 7:43 PM on August 3, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think that it should be possible to appreciate Apple products while acknowledging that someone who was arguably responsible for some of their success was a deeply awful human being. I just don't care for the "cult," label, especially as applied to Apple fans. I consider myself one, inasmuch as I've been using Apple for ~8 years, and they were doing a wonderful job on product accessibility before it seemed to be very high on anybody else's priority list. How much of that was related to Jobs? I don't know, I've never really cared to learn about him in depth. He's dead and gone, and wasn't even with the company for a good portion of its life.

Can we please try and separate critique of Jobs as a human from snide remarks about Apple users?
posted by Alensin at 8:12 PM on August 3, 2018 [6 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted; let's not get off into what we imagine some people might say, or how we think people should discuss differently. If you think there's something useful or interesting to discuss in the links, please just make those points directly.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:15 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


A few weeks ago my husband and I got off on a tangent, like we do, and we discussed Jobs and Woz - the place I came to and he agreed it this : Woz could have happened without Jobs. Jobs could not have happened without Woz. One is known as a towering asshole whose talent seems to a cult of personality (this is not calling Apple fans cultists to be clear) and marketing himself, and thereby Apple for the years he was there, in a way that people are still trying to, and mostly failing, to emulate. Woz is a genius who understood things about the future decades ahead of his time. Maybe Woz needed an asshole - if not Jobs than someone else - but without Jobs, Woz is still a genius and without Woz, Jobs is a man shouting at clouds looking for a genius.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 10:12 AM on August 4, 2018 [15 favorites]


There is a timeline in which Steve Woz was recognized as the Steve that mattered, where the US Festival never happened, when the series of events that resulted in Segway polo turned out differently.

I bet you anything Donald Trump is not President in that timeline.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:06 AM on August 4, 2018 [8 favorites]


I'm less bothered by the revelation that some Important Person was actually an asshole than I am by the assumption that to be an Important Person, one must first be an asshole.

Like, if I had to disavow all art or technology that was created by an asshole, I'd be left without a lot of things I really enjoy. Like most of my favorite music. And I'd have to use an Android phone (shudder). But what really bothers me is when people treat, say, Jobs' asshole management style as something inspired by genius, when in fact it's just as likely he had a few valuable skills and was in the right place at the right time. I mean sure, Apple might have gone nowhere without someone of Jobs' vision and marketing acumen. But what if Woz had hooked up with someone who had the same skills, only was a much nicer person? Perhaps Apple would be worth 2 trillion today instead of 1.
posted by panama joe at 11:51 AM on August 4, 2018 [5 favorites]


Note re njohnson23's comment about Mac dev group as a religious cult: it's true that the Mac dev group had obsessive qualities like some developers working day & night sleeping under desks, which was unknown before then, and encouraged somewhat by later start-up cultures. But I don't think it exactly fits the cult model, as much of the team had a fair amount of cynicism about Jobs and joked about his messianic tendencies. (Folklore.org) is hilarious, I was rereading a bit today.
posted by ovvl at 3:33 PM on August 4, 2018


I worked in an outsourcing tech support phone farm in Texas in the late 90s - everyone who made money there (including me) slept under their desks. It so quickly rained down on all of tech culture...
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 5:08 PM on August 4, 2018


it's true that the Mac dev group had obsessive qualities like some developers working day & night sleeping under desks, which was unknown before then,

Jobs saw this at Atari. The c64 developers at Commodore were doing this in the C64 days, concurrent with the Apple II. It was literally everywhere in the valley. Numerous books and oral histories mention this.
posted by GuyZero at 8:33 AM on August 6, 2018


Woz could have happened without Jobs. Jobs could not have happened without Woz.

Having read a ton of SV historical accounts, I don't think this is true. That is, Woz couldn't have happened without Jobs. Without Jobs, Woz would have been one of thousands of valley electrical engineers who names aren't famous. (or hack, non-valley engineers - e.g. Shuji Nakamura) There's a big gap between being a "mere" genius and the level of fame and success Woz has.
posted by GuyZero at 8:37 AM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


whoops, heck not hack - Shuji Nakamura is no hack
posted by GuyZero at 8:55 AM on August 6, 2018


Nah, Woz would have always found his Jobs, even if it wasn't Jobs. Jobs was lucky to find Woz.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:43 PM on August 6, 2018


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