Steve Jobs and Joan Didion: The Untold Story

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There isn’t actually an untold Jobs/Didion story. I just wanted you to read this.

Jobs did go out with Joan Baez though, when he was 27 and she was 41. In his new biography Steve Jobs Walter Isaacson tells an incredible story about them. Jobs (who was already massively wealthy) kept telling Baez (who wasn’t) about this amazing red dress at a Ralph Lauren store. He took her to the store and bought a bunch of shirts for himself. Then he showed her the dress.

“You ought to buy it,” he said. She couldn’t afford it. They left. He didn’t buy her the dress. “I felt a bit strange about it,” she says. Seems like Jobs could, his high standards as a technologist aside, have striven a little harder for excellence as a boyfriend.

I reviewed Steve Jobs in TIME this week. I found it to be excellent, though that judgment goes with a massive caveat, which is that Isaacson used to run TIME, and I worked for him. But listen: I interviewed Jobs a half a dozen times in the 2000’s, and Isaacson does really get him. There’s been a lot of hagiographical stuff about Jobs since his death, and I’m not saying that’s uncalled for, but this is different. It’s a very balanced portrait, especially for an authorized biography: Jobs’s genius could be very hard on the people around him, and Isaacson is not afraid to say so.

(Also, funny story: in the 1970s Jobs was a big hippy, and for years he was on a weird diet that he believed made it unnecessary for him to bathe. Practically everyone who knew Jobs in the seventies mentions how incredibly bad he smelled.)

You can’t see the review online because it’s behind the paywall, and the paywall cares nothing for your tears. But it’s in the print version. So is my review of Joan Didion’s Blue Nights, a harshly beautiful memoir about her adopted daughter Quintana Roo (they picked the name off a map of Mexico) who died of pancreatitis when she was 39. It’s also about Didion’s experience of old age — she’s 75.

So there is a connection: two books about people who were adopted. There you have it.