Reading Options by Fake Steve Jobs (Verdict: Fanboys Must Read)

Illustration for article titled Reading iOptions/i by Fake Steve Jobs (Verdict: Fanboys Must Read)

Whether you tune in for Keynote liveblogs, or despise Applemodo, Options by Fake Steve Jobs will be an effortless read. The opening:

It is Tuesday afternoon. I am barefoot, sitting on a cushion in the lotus position, gazing at a circuit board. This board, no bigger than a playing card, has taken years to create. It is the heart of the of the iPhone, the most important object my engineers have ever assembled. And it is wrong.

I do not know why, exactly. But it is wrong. By this i do not mean that the board does not function correctly. It functions perfectly. But it lacks beauty. My engineers argue that a circuit board need not be beautiful, since no one will ever see it.

"Yes," I say, "but I will know it is there. And I will know that it is not beautiful."


The main difference between today's RSJ and FSJ, aside from being totally fake, is that he retains all of that bombastic confidence the Young RSJ had. Nowadays, most of that gets veiled behind the corporate handlers. (Fortunate for shareholders, unfortunate for fanboys.) Can you imagine RSJ insulting Microsoft's taste on TV or putting a pirate flag on top of a dev building in 2007? FSJ is as refreshing and unapologetic as anyone with this strong a character should be.

This book's greatest virtue is that while reading through FSJ stock option turmoil, you feel like Lyons convincingly channels the mythological figure of RSJ as seamlessly as the lip of an iMac wraps around its screen. I'd tell myself that this is a Forbes editor, not the creator of the friggin' iPod at the top of any given page, and forgot about it within a few sentences. It's all about the dialog, which anyone who reads FSJ's blog would recognize. What's more amazing is that people in the position to know say that the voice of Fake Steve is spot on. I don't exactly believe that, but something certainly resonates here.


The difference between the blog and the book is the narrative twisting through pre-iPhone days, across the options scandal, and through an insane ending. FSJ travels through Apple's boardrooms and secret labs, which could have been a straight forward formula for Options. But Lyons goes further, weaving Apple lore through this work. He does a chapter on the obsessively planned Keynotes at Macworld and WWDC, and what happens when a cop pulls over Jobs for speeding (recall his AMG sports car is plateless, SJ carefree of possible fines). Larry Ellison provides a foil and companion by way of drug binges at his friend's zen gardens, a man obsessed with pussy like Jobs is with building "perfect things that restore a sense of child-like wonder in people." FSJ also tells of what really happened when RSJ journeyed to India on a soul search. None of this lore is new, most of it based on facts and assumptions about the RSJ reported in many books, spun wildly. But it's never been told first person before. Even if the mysterious Jobs one day tells his story in an autobiography, I'm not sure it could be this good. That's the fun of making shit up, I suppose.

Lyons is a relative late comer to Apple culture. He learned what he knows through all the Jobs and Apple books out there, drawing on his fiction writing background and ability. I wonder how he feels about Jobs. Does he despise his personality? Does he think the dictatorship is a necessary evil for creating beautiful objects that save the world from Microtards? You won't likely be able to figure out what Lyons, removed from FSJ, thinks with all of his biting words shrouded in fiction. The only thing that is clear is that the man is obsessed with playing Jobs in blog and book. And he's too good at satisfying those who'd like to learn more about the man behind the company. All we get these days are the PR approved essays on music, or how the apps are coming to the iPhone, or soundbite quotes on how awesome he thinks the new iPods are. Glimpses of decisions like the BSOD PC icons in Leopard remind me of a company and person who put forth strong feelings about where they stood in the world without much reservation. I like that stuff. [FSJ and Options on Amazon]

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@AlexLand: And the WSJ and NYTimes that both did reviews of this book. And their audiences. Lots of people care, and its because the writing sings. And for the reasons above.