At Home with the Jobs Clan
With Laurene Powell, 1991
By this point, based on his dating history, a matchmaker could have put together a composite sketch of the woman who would be right for Jobs. Smart, yet unpretentious. Tough enough to stand up to him, yet Zen-like enough to rise above turmoil. Well-educated and independent, yet ready to make accommodations for him and a family. Down-to-earth, but with a touch of the ethereal. Savvy enough to know how to manage him, but secure enough to not always need to. And it wouldn’t hurt to be a beautiful, lanky blonde with an easygoing sense of humor who liked organic vegetarian food. In October 1989, after his split with Tina Redse, just such a woman walked into his life.
More specifically, just such a woman walked into his classroom. Jobs had agreed to give one of the “View from the Top” lectures at the Stanford Business School one Thursday evening. Laurene Powell was a new graduate student at the business school, and a guy in her class talked her into going to the lecture. They arrived late and all the seats were taken, so they sat in the aisle. When an usher told them they had to move, Powell took her friend down to the front row and commandeered two of the reserved seats there. Jobs was led to the one next to her when he arrived. “I looked to my right, and there was a beautiful girl there, so we started chatting while I was waiting to be introduced,” Jobs recalled. They bantered a bit, and Laurene joked that she was sitting there because she had won a raffle, and the prize was that he got to take her to dinner. “He was so adorable,” she later said.
After the speech Jobs hung around on the edge of the stage chatting with students. He watched Powell leave, then come back and stand at the edge of the crowd, then leave again. He bolted out after her, brushing past the dean, who was trying to grab him for a conversation. After catching up with her in the parking lot, he said, “Excuse me, wasn’t there something about a raffle you won, that I’m supposed to take you to dinner?” She laughed. “How about Saturday?” he asked. She agreed and wrote down her number. Jobs headed to his car to drive up to the Thomas Fogarty winery in the Santa Cruz mountains above Woodside, where the NeXT education sales group was holding a dinner. But he suddenly stopped and turned around. “I thought, wow, I’d rather have dinner with her than the education group, so I ran back to her car and said ‘How about dinner tonight?’” She said yes. It was a beautiful fall evening, and they walked into Palo Alto to a funky vegetarian restaurant, St. Michael’s Alley, and ended up staying there for four hours. “We’ve been together ever since,” he said.
Avie Tevanian was sitting at the winery restaurant waiting with the rest of the NeXT education group. “Steve was sometimes unreliable, but when I talked to him I realized that something special had come up,” he said. As soon as Powell got home, after midnight, she called her close friend Kathryn (Kat) Smith, who was at Berkeley, and left a message on her machine. “You will not believe what just happened to me!” it said. “You will not believe who I met!” Smith called back the next morning and heard the tale. “We had known about Steve, and he was a person of interest to us, because we were business students,” she recalled.
Andy Hertzfeld and a few others later speculated that Powell had been scheming to meet Jobs. “Laurene is nice, but she can be calculating, and I think she targeted him from the beginning,” Hertzfeld said. “Her college roommate told me that Laurene had magazine covers of Steve and vowed she was going to meet him. If it’s true that Steve was manipulated, there is a fair amount of irony there.” But Powell later insisted that this wasn’t the case. She went only because her friend wanted to go, and she was slightly confused as to who they were going to see. “I knew that Steve Jobs was the speaker, but the face I thought of was that of Bill Gates,” she recalled. “I had them mixed up. This was 1989. He was working at NeXT, and he was not that big of a deal to me. I wasn’t that enthused, but my friend was, so we went.”
“There were only two women in my life that I was truly in love with, Tina and Laurene,” Jobs later said. “I thought I was in love with Joan Baez, but I really just liked her a lot. It was just Tina and then Laurene.”
Laurene Powell had been born in New Jersey in 1963 and learned to be self-sufficient at an early age. Her father was a Marine Corps pilot who died a hero in a crash in Santa Ana, California; he had been leading a crippled plane in for a landing, and when it hit his plane he kept flying to avoid a residential area rather than ejecting in time to save his life. Her mother’s second marriage turned out to be a horrible situation, but she felt she couldn’t leave because she had no means to support her large family. For ten years Laurene and her three brothers had to suffer in a tense household, keeping a good demeanor while compartmentalizing problems. She did well. “The lesson I learned was clear, that I always wanted to be self-sufficient,” she said. “I took pride in that. My relationship with money is that it’s a tool to be self-sufficient, but it’s not something that is part of who I am.”
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, she worked at Goldman Sachs as a fixed income trading strategist, dealing with enormous sums of money that she traded for the house account. Jon Corzine, her boss, tried to get her to stay at Goldman, but instead she decided the work was unedifying. “You could be really successful,” she said, “but you’re just contributing to capital formation.” So after three years she quit and went to Florence, Italy, living there for eight months before enrolling in Stanford Business School.
After their Thursday night dinner, she invited Jobs over to her Palo Alto apartment on Saturday. Kat Smith drove down from Berkeley and pretended to be her roommate so she could meet him as well. Their relationship became very passionate. “They would kiss and make out,” Smith said. “He was enraptured with her. He would call me on the phone and ask, ‘What do you think, does she like me?’ Here I am in this bizarre position of having this iconic person call me.”
That New Year’s Eve of 1989 the three went to Chez Panisse, the famed Alice Waters restaurant in Berkeley, along with Lisa, then eleven. Something happened at the dinner that caused Jobs and Powell to start arguing. They left separately, and Powell ended up spending the night at Kat Smith’s apartment. At nine the next morning there was a knock at the door, and Smith opened it to find Jobs, standing in the drizzle holding some wildflowers he had picked. “May I come in and see Laurene?” he said. She was still asleep, and he walked into the bedroom. A couple of hours went by, while Smith waited in the living room, unable to go in and get her clothes. Finally, she put a coat on over her nightgown and went to Peet’s Coffee to pick up some food. Jobs did not emerge until after noon. “Kat, can you come here for a minute?” he asked. They all gathered in the bedroom. “As you know, Laurene’s father passed away, and Laurene’s mother isn’t here, and since you’re her best friend, I’m going to ask you the question,” he said. “I’d like to marry Laurene. Will you give your blessing?”
Smith clambered onto the bed and thought about it. “Is this okay with you?” she asked Powell. When she nodded yes, Smith announced, “Well, there’s your answer.”
It was not, however, a definitive answer. Jobs had a way of focusing on something with insane intensity for a while and then, abruptly, turning away his gaze. At work, he would focus on what he wanted to, when he wanted to, and on other matters he would be unresponsive, no matter how hard people tried to get him to engage. In his personal life, he was the same way. At times he and Powell would indulge in public displays of affection that were so intense they embarrassed everyone in their presence, including Kat Smith and Powell’s mother. In the mornings at his Woodside mansion, he would wake Powell up by blasting the Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” on his tape deck. Yet at other times he would ignore her. “Steve would fluctuate between intense focus, where she was the center of the universe, to being coldly distant and focused on work,” said Smith. “He had the power to focus like a laser beam, and when it came across you, you basked in the light of his attention. When it moved to another point of focus, it was very, very dark for you. It was very confusing to Laurene.”
Once she had accepted his marriage proposal on the first day of 1990, he didn’t mention it again for several months. Finally, Smith confronted him while they were sitting on the edge of a sandbox in Palo Alto. What was going on? Jobs replied that he needed to feel sure that Powell could handle the life he lived and the type of person he was. In September she became fed up with waiting and moved out. The following month, he gave her a diamond engagement ring, and she moved back in.
In December Jobs took Powell to his favorite vacation spot, Kona Village in Hawaii. He had started going there nine years earlier when, stressed out at Apple, he had asked his assistant to pick out a place for him to escape. At first glance, he didn’t like the cluster of sparse thatched-roof bungalows nestled on a beach on the big island of Hawaii. It was a family resort, with communal eating. But within hours he had begun to view it as paradise. There was a simplicity and spare beauty that moved him, and he returned whenever he could. He especially enjoyed being there that December with Powell. Their love had matured. The night before Christmas he again declared, even more formally, that he wanted to marry her. Soon another factor would drive that decision. While in Hawaii, Powell got pregnant. “We know exactly where it happened,” Jobs later said with a laugh.
The Wedding, March 18, 1991
Powell’s pregnancy did not completely settle the issue. Jobs again began balking at the idea of marriage, even though he had dramatically proposed to her both at the very beginning and the very end of 1990. Furious, she moved out of his house and back to her apartment. For a while he sulked or ignored the situation. Then he thought he might still be in love with Tina Redse; he sent her roses and tried to convince her to return to him, maybe even get married. He was not sure what he wanted, and he surprised a wide swath of friends and even acquaintances by asking them what he should do. Who was prettier, he would ask, Tina or Laurene? Who did they like better? Who should he marry? In a chapter about this in Mona Simpson’s novel A Regular Guy, the Jobs character “asked more than a hundred people who they thought was more beautiful.” But that was fiction; in reality, it was probably fewer than a hundred.
He ended up making the right choice. As Redse told friends, she never would have survived if she had gone back to Jobs, nor would their marriage. Even though he would pine about the spiritual nature of his connection to Redse, he had a far more solid relationship with Powell. He liked her, he loved her, he respected her, and he was comfortable with her. He may not have seen her as mystical, but she was a sensible anchor for his life. “He is the luckiest guy to have landed with Laurene, who is smart and can engage him intellectually and can sustain his ups and downs and tempestuous personality,” said Joanna Hoffman. “Because she’s not neurotic, Steve may feel that she is not as mystical as Tina or something. But that’s silly.” Andy Hertzfeld agreed. “Laurene looks a lot like Tina, but she is totally different because she is tougher and armor-plated. That’s why the marriage works.”
Jobs understood this as well. Despite his emotional turbulence and occasional meanness, the marriage would turn out to be enduring, marked by loyalty and faithfulness, overcoming the ups and downs and jangling emotional complexities it encountered.
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Avie Tevanian decided Jobs needed a bachelor’s party. This was not as easy as it sounded. Jobs did not like to party and didn’t have a gang of male buddies. He didn’t even have a best man. So the party turned out to be just Tevanian and Richard Crandall, a computer science professor at Reed who had taken a leave to work at NeXT. Tevanian hired a limo, and when they got to Jobs’s house, Powell answered the door dressed in a suit and wearing a fake moustache, saying that she wanted to come as one of the guys. It was just a joke, and soon the three bachelors, none of them drinkers, were rolling to San Francisco to see if they could pull off their own pale version of a bachelor party.
Tevanian had been unable to get reservations at Greens, the vegetarian restaurant at Fort Mason that Jobs liked, so he booked a very fancy restaurant at a hotel. “I don’t want to eat here,” Jobs announced as soon as the bread was placed on the table. He made them get up and walk out, to the horror of Tevanian, who was not yet used to Jobs’s restaurant manners. He led them to Café Jacqueline in North Beach, the soufflé place that he loved, which was indeed a better choice. Afterward they took the limo across the Golden Gate Bridge to a bar in Sausalito, where all three ordered shots of tequila but only sipped them. “It was not great as bachelor parties go, but it was the best we could come up with for someone like Steve, and nobody else volunteered to do it,” recalled Tevanian. Jobs was appreciative. He decided that he wanted Tevanian to marry his sister Mona Simpson. Though nothing came of it, the thought was a sign of affection.
Powell had fair warning of what she was getting into. As she was planning the wedding, the person who was going to do the calligraphy for the invitations came by the house to show them some options. There was no furniture for her to sit on, so she sat on the floor and laid out the samples. Jobs looked for a few minutes, then got up and left the room. They waited for him to come back, but he didn’t. After a while Powell went to find him in his room. “Get rid of her,” he said. “I can’t look at her stuff. It’s shit.”
On March 18, 1991, Steven Paul Jobs, thirty-six, married Laurene Powell, twenty-seven, at the Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite National Park. Built in the 1920s, the Ahwahnee is a sprawling pile of stone, concrete, and timber designed in a style that mixed Art Deco, the Arts and Crafts movement, and the Park Service’s love of huge fireplaces. Its best features are the views. It has floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.
About fifty people came, including Steve’s father Paul Jobs and sister Mona Simpson. She brought her fiancé, Richard Appel, a lawyer who went on to become a television comedy writer. (As a writer for The Simpsons, he named Homer’s mother after his wife.) Jobs insisted that they all arrive by chartered bus; he wanted to control all aspects of the event.
The ceremony was in the solarium, with the snow coming down hard and Glacier Point just visible in the distance. It was conducted by Jobs’s longtime Sōtō Zen teacher, Kobun Chino, who shook a stick, struck a gong, lit incense, and chanted in a mumbling manner that most guests found incomprehensible. “I thought he was drunk,” said Tevanian. He wasn’t. The wedding cake was in the shape of Half Dome, the granite crest at the end of Yosemite Valley, but since it was strictly vegan—devoid of eggs, milk, or any refined products—more than a few of the guests found it inedible. Afterward they all went hiking, and Powell’s three strapping brothers launched a snowball fight, with lots of tackling and roughhousing. “You see, Mona,” Jobs said to his sister, “Laurene is descended from Joe Namath and we’re descended from John Muir.”
A Family Home
Powell shared her husband’s interest in natural foods. While at business school, she had worked part time at Odwalla, the juice company, where she helped develop the first marketing plan. After marrying Jobs, she felt that it was important to have a career, having learned from her childhood the need to be self-sufficient. So she started her own company, Terravera, that made ready-to-eat organic meals and delivered them to stores throughout northern California.
Instead of living in the isolated and rather spooky unfurnished Woodside mansion, the couple moved into a charming and unpretentious house on a corner in a family-friendly neighborhood in old Palo Alto. It was a privileged realm—neighbors would eventually include the visionary venture capitalist John Doerr, Google’s founder Larry Page, and Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, along with Andy Hertzfeld and Joanna Hoffman—but the homes were not ostentatious, and there were no high hedges or long drives shielding them from view. Instead, houses were nestled on lots next to each other along flat, quiet streets flanked by wide sidewalks. “We wanted to live in a neighborhood where kids could walk to see friends,” Jobs later said.
The house was not the minimalist and modernist style Jobs would have designed if he had built a home from scratch. Nor was it a large or distinctive mansion that would make people stop and take notice as they drove down his street in Palo Alto. It was built in the 1930s by a local designer named Carr Jones, who specialized in carefully crafted homes in the “storybook style” of English or French country cottages.
The two-story house was made of red brick, with exposed wood beams and a shingle roof with curved lines; it evoked a rambling Cotswold cottage, or perhaps a home where a well-to-do Hobbit might have lived. The one Californian touch was a mission-style courtyard framed by the wings of the house. The two-story vaulted-ceiling living room was informal, with a floor of tile and terra-cotta. At one end was a large triangular window leading up to the peak of the ceiling; it had stained glass when Jobs bought it, as if it were a chapel, but he replaced it with clear glass. The other renovation he and Powell made was to expand the kitchen to include a wood-burning pizza oven and room for a long wooden table that would become the family’s primary gathering place. It was supposed to be a four-month renovation, but it took sixteen months because Jobs kept redoing the design. They also bought the small house behind them and razed it to make a backyard, which Powell turned into a beautiful natural garden filled with a profusion of seasonal flowers along with vegetables and herbs.
Jobs became fascinated by the way Carr Jones relied on old material, including used bricks and wood from telephone poles, to provide a simple and sturdy structure. The beams in the kitchen had been used to make the molds for the concrete foundations of the Golden Gate Bridge, which was under construction when the house was built. “He was a careful craftsman who was self-taught,” Jobs said as he pointed out each of the details. “He cared more about being inventive than about making money, and he never got rich. He never left California. His ideas came from reading books in the library and Architectural Digest.”
Jobs had never furnished his Woodside house beyond a few bare essentials: a chest of drawers and a mattress in his bedroom, a card table and some folding chairs in what would have been a dining room. He wanted around him only things that he could admire, and that made it hard simply to go out and buy a lot of furniture. Now that he was living in a normal neighborhood home with a wife and soon a child, he had to make some concessions to necessity. But it was hard. They got beds, dressers, and a music system for the living room, but items like sofas took longer. “We spoke about furniture in theory for eight years,” recalled Powell. “We spent a lot of time asking ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of a sofa?’” Buying appliances was also a philosophical task, not just an impulse purchase. A few years later, Jobs described to Wired the process that went into getting a new washing machine:
It turns out that the Americans make washers and dryers all wrong. The Europeans make them much better—but they take twice as long to do clothes! It turns out that they wash them with about a quarter as much water and your clothes end up with a lot less detergent on them. Most important, they don’t trash your clothes. They use a lot less soap, a lot less water, but they come out much cleaner, much softer, and they last a lot longer. We spent some time in our family talking about what’s the trade-off we want to make. We ended up talking a lot about design, but also about the values of our family. Did we care most about getting our wash done in an hour versus an hour and a half? Or did we care most about our clothes feeling really soft and lasting longer? Did we care about using a quarter of the water? We spent about two weeks talking about this every night at the dinner table.
They ended up getting a Miele washer and dryer, made in Germany. “I got more thrill out of them than I have out of any piece of high tech in years,” Jobs said.
The one piece of art that Jobs bought for the vaulted-ceiling living room was an Ansel Adams print of the winter sunrise in the Sierra Nevada taken from Lone Pine, California. Adams had made the huge mural print for his daughter, who later sold it. At one point Jobs’s housekeeper wiped it with a wet cloth, and Jobs tracked down a person who had worked with Adams to come to the house, strip it down a layer, and restore it.
The house was so unassuming that Bill Gates was somewhat baffled when he visited with his wife. “Do all of you live here?” asked Gates, who was then in the process of building a 66,000-square-foot mansion near Seattle. Even when he had his second coming at Apple and was a world-famous billionaire, Jobs had no security guards or live-in servants, and he even kept the back door unlocked during the day.
His only security problem came, sadly and strangely, from Burrell Smith, the mop-headed, cherubic Macintosh software engineer who had been Andy Hertzfeld’s sidekick. After leaving Apple, Smith descended into schizophrenia. He lived in a house down the street from Hertzfeld, and as his disorder progressed he began wandering the streets naked, at other times smashing the windows of cars and churches. He was put on strong medication, but it proved difficult to calibrate. At one point when his demons returned, he began going over to the Jobs house in the evenings, throwing rocks through the windows, leaving rambling letters, and once tossing a firecracker into the house. He was arrested, but the case was dropped when he went for more treatment. “Burrell was so funny and na?ve, and then one April day he suddenly snapped,” Jobs recalled. “It was the weirdest, saddest thing.”
Jobs was sympathetic, and often asked Hertzfeld what more he could do to help. At one point Smith was thrown in jail and refused to identify himself. When Hertzfeld found out, three days later, he called Jobs and asked for assistance in getting him released. Jobs did help, but he surprised Hertzfeld with a question: “If something similar happened to me, would you take as good care of me as you do Burrell?”
Jobs kept his mansion in Woodside, about ten miles up into the mountains from Palo Alto. He wanted to tear down the fourteen-bedroom 1925 Spanish colonial revival, and he had plans drawn up to replace it with an extremely simple, Japanese-inspired modernist home one-third the size. But for more than twenty years he engaged in a slow-moving series of court battles with preservationists who wanted the crumbling original house to be saved. (In 2011 he finally got permission to raze the house, but by then he had no desire to build a second home.)
On occasion Jobs would use the semi-abandoned Woodside home, especially its swimming pool, for family parties. When Bill Clinton was president, he and Hillary Clinton stayed in the 1950s ranch house on the property on their visits to their daughter, who was at Stanford. Since both the main house and ranch house were unfurnished, Powell would call furniture and art dealers when the Clintons were coming and pay them to furnish the houses temporarily. Once, shortly after the Monica Lewinsky flurry broke, Powell was making a final inspection of the furnishings and noticed that one of the paintings was missing. Worried, she asked the advance team and Secret Service what had happened. One of them pulled her aside and explained that it was a painting of a dress on a hanger, and given the issue of the blue dress in the Lewinsky matter they had decided to hide it. (During one of his late-night phone conversations with Jobs, Clinton asked how he should handle the Lewinsky issue. “I don’t know if you did it, but if so, you’ve got to tell the country,” Jobs told the president. There was silence on the other end of the line.)
Lisa Moves In
In the middle of Lisa’s eighth-grade year, her teachers called Jobs. There were serious problems, and it was probably best for her to move out of her mother’s house. So Jobs went on a walk with Lisa, asked about the situation, and offered to let her move in with him. She was a mature girl, just turning fourteen, and she thought about it for two days. Then she said yes. She already knew which room she wanted: the one right next to her father’s. When she was there once, with no one home, she had tested it out by lying down on the bare floor.
It was a tough period. Chrisann Brennan would sometimes walk over from her own house a few blocks away and yell at them from the yard. When I asked her recently about her behavior and the allegations that led to Lisa’s moving out of her house, she said that she had still not been able to process in her own mind what occurred during that period. But then she wrote me a long email that she said would help explain the situation:
Do you know how Steve was able to get the city of Woodside to allow him to tear his Woodside home down? There was a community of people who wanted to preserve his Woodside house due to its historical value, but Steve wanted to tear it down and build a home with an orchard. Steve let that house fall into so much disrepair and decay over a number of years that there was no way to save it. The strategy he used to get what he wanted was to simply follow the line of least involvement and resistance. So by his doing nothing on the house, and maybe even leaving the windows open for years, the house fell apart. Brilliant, no? . . . In a similar way did Steve work to undermine my effectiveness AND my well being at the time when Lisa was 13 and 14 to get her to move into his house. He started with one strategy but then it moved to another easier one that was even more destructive to me and more problematic for Lisa. It may not have been of the greatest integrity, but he got what he wanted.
Lisa lived with Jobs and Powell for all four of her years at Palo Alto High School, and she began using the name Lisa Brennan-Jobs. He tried to be a good father, but there were times when he was cold and distant. When Lisa felt she had to escape, she would seek refuge with a friendly family who lived nearby. Powell tried to be supportive, and she was the one who attended most of Lisa’s school events.
By the time Lisa was a senior, she seemed to be flourishing. She joined the school newspaper, The Campanile, and became the coeditor. Together with her classmate Ben Hewlett, grandson of the man who gave her father his first job, she exposed secret raises that the school board had given to administrators. When it came time to go to college, she knew she wanted to go east. She applied to Harvard—forging her father’s signature on the application because he was out of town—and was accepted for the class entering in 1996.
At Harvard Lisa worked on the college newspaper, The Crimson, and then the literary magazine, The Advocate. After breaking up with her boyfriend, she took a year abroad at King’s College, London. Her relationship with her father remained tumultuous throughout her college years. When she would come home, fights over small things—what was being served for dinner, whether she was paying enough attention to her half-siblings—would blow up, and they would not speak to each other for weeks and sometimes months. The arguments occasionally got so bad that Jobs would stop supporting her, and she would borrow money from Andy Hertzfeld or others. Hertzfeld at one point lent Lisa $20,000 when she thought that her father was not going to pay her tuition. “He was mad at me for making the loan,” Hertzfeld recalled, “but he called early the next morning and had his accountant wire me the money.” Jobs did not go to Lisa’s Harvard graduation in 2000. He said, “She didn’t even invite me.”
There were, however, some nice times during those years, including one summer when Lisa came back home and performed at a benefit concert for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group that supports access to technology. The concert took place at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, which had been made famous by the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Jimi Hendrix. She sang Tracy Chapman’s anthem “Talkin’ bout a Revolution” (“Poor people are gonna rise up / And get their share”) as her father stood in the back cradling his one-year-old daughter, Erin.
Jobs’s ups and downs with Lisa continued after she moved to Manhattan as a freelance writer. Their problems were exacerbated because of Jobs’s frustrations with Chrisann. He had bought a $700,000 house for Chrisann to use and put it in Lisa’s name, but Chrisann convinced her to sign it over and then sold it, using the money to travel with a spiritual advisor and to live in Paris. Once the money ran out, she returned to San Francisco and became an artist creating “light paintings” and Buddhist mandalas. “I am a ‘Connector’ and a visionary contributor to the future of evolving humanity and the ascended Earth,” she said on her website (which Hertzfeld maintained for her). “I experience the forms, color, and sound frequencies of sacred vibration as I create and live with the paintings.” When Chrisann needed money for a bad sinus infection and dental problem, Jobs refused to give it to her, causing Lisa again to not speak to him for a few years. And thus the pattern would continue.
Mona Simpson used all of this, plus her imagination, as a springboard for her third novel, A Regular Guy, published in 1996. The book’s title character is based on Jobs, and to some extent it adheres to reality: It depicts Jobs’s quiet generosity to, and purchase of a special car for, a brilliant friend who had degenerative bone disease, and it accurately describes many unflattering aspects of his relationship with Lisa, including his original denial of paternity. But other parts are purely fiction; Chrisann had taught Lisa at a very early age how to drive, for example, but the book’s scene of “Jane” driving a truck across the mountains alone at age five to find her father of course never happened. In addition, there are little details in the novel that, in journalist parlance, are too good to check, such as the head-snapping description of the character based on Jobs in the very first sentence: “He was a man too busy to flush toilets.”
On the surface, the novel’s fictional portrayal of Jobs seems harsh. Simpson describes her main character as unable “to see any need to pander to the wishes or whims of other people.” His hygiene is also as dubious as that of the real Jobs. “He didn’t believe in deodorant and often professed that with a proper diet and the peppermint castile soap, you would neither perspire nor smell.” But the novel is lyrical and intricate on many levels, and by the end there is a fuller picture of a man who loses control of the great company he had founded and learns to appreciate the daughter he had abandoned. The final scene is of him dancing with his daughter.
Jobs later said that he never read the novel. “I heard it was about me,” he told me, “and if it was about me, I would have gotten really pissed off, and I didn’t want to get pissed at my sister, so I didn’t read it.” However, he told the New York Times a few months after the book appeared that he had read it and saw the reflections of himself in the main character. “About 25% of it is totally me, right down to the mannerisms,” he told the reporter, Steve Lohr. “And I’m certainly not telling you which 25%.” His wife said that, in fact, Jobs glanced at the book and asked her to read it for him to see what he should make of it.
Simpson sent the manuscript to Lisa before it was published, but at first she didn’t read more than the opening. “In the first few pages, I was confronted with my family, my anecdotes, my things, my thoughts, myself in the character Jane,” she noted. “And sandwiched between the truths was invention—lies to me, made more evident because of their dangerous proximity to the truth.” Lisa was wounded, and she wrote a piece for the Harvard Advocate explaining why. Her first draft was very bitter, then she toned it down a bit before she published it. She felt violated by Simpson’s friendship. “I didn’t know, for those six years, that Mona was collecting,” she wrote. “I didn’t know that as I sought her consolations and took her advice, she, too, was taking.” Eventually Lisa reconciled with Simpson. They went out to a coffee shop to discuss the book, and Lisa told her that she hadn’t been able to finish it. Simpson told her she would like the ending. Over the years Lisa had an on-and-off relationship with Simpson, but it would be closer in some ways than the one she had with her father.
When Powell gave birth in 1991, a few months after her wedding to Jobs, their child was known for two weeks as “baby boy Jobs,” because settling on a name was proving only slightly less difficult than choosing a washing machine. Finally, they named him Reed Paul Jobs. His middle name was that of Jobs’s father, and his first name (both Jobs and Powell insist) was chosen because it sounded good rather than because it was the name of Jobs’s college.
Reed turned out to be like his father in many ways: incisive and smart, with intense eyes and a mesmerizing charm. But unlike his father, he had sweet manners and a self-effacing grace. He was creative—as a kid he liked to dress in costume and stay in character—and also a great student, interested in science. He could replicate his father’s stare, but he was demonstrably affectionate and seemed not to have an ounce of cruelty in his nature.
Erin Siena Jobs was born in 1995. She was a little quieter and sometimes suffered from not getting much of her father’s attention. She picked up her father’s interest in design and architecture, but she also learned to keep a bit of an emotional distance, so as not to be hurt by his detachment.
The youngest child, Eve, was born in 1998, and she turned into a strong-willed, funny firecracker who, neither needy nor intimidated, knew how to handle her father, negotiate with him (and sometimes win), and even make fun of him. Her father joked that she’s the one who will run Apple someday, if she doesn’t become president of the United States.
Jobs developed a strong relationship with Reed, but with his daughters he was more distant. As he would with others, he would occasionally focus on them, but just as often would completely ignore them when he had other things on his mind. “He focuses on his work, and at times he has not been there for the girls,” Powell said. At one point Jobs marveled to his wife at how well their kids were turning out, “especially since we’re not always there for them.” This amused, and slightly annoyed, Powell, because she had given up her career when Reed turned two and she decided she wanted to have more children.
In 1995 Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison threw a fortieth-birthday party for Jobs filled with tech stars and moguls. Ellison had become a close friend, and he would often take the Jobs family out on one of his many luxurious yachts. Reed started referring to him as “our rich friend,” which was amusing evidence of how his father refrained from ostentatious displays of wealth. The lesson Jobs learned from his Buddhist days was that material possessions often cluttered life rather than enriched it. “Every other CEO I know has a security detail,” he said. “They’ve even got them at their homes. It’s a nutso way to live. We just decided that’s not how we wanted to raise our kids.”