Saturday, April 30, 2005

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The Da Vinci Crock

Steve Jobs's review of his biography: Ban it

By Katie Hafner

Story last modified Sat Apr 30 04:20:00 PDT 2005

SAN FRANCISCO--No one can accuse Steve Jobs of indifference.

In an image-obsessed fit of pique, Apple Computer has banished books published by John Wiley & Sons from the shelves of Apple's 105 retail stores--all because of Wiley's plans to publish an unauthorized biography of Jobs, Apple's chief executive.

It is not clear whether Jobs or anyone else at Apple has read the book--"iCon: Steve Jobs, The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business," by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon, which will go on sale next month.

The very ambiguity of the title--Icon, or I Con?--is the first clue that the work may not be hagiography. But in the publisher's view, the specifics are probably beside the point.

"It was clear they didn't want us to publish the book," Susan Spilka, a spokeswoman at Wiley, said.

In recent months, Apple showed its penchant for secrecy by suing a Harvard student who operates a Web site for Apple enthusiasts, accusing him of trying to induce Apple employees to divulge company trade secrets. It also filed lawsuits to stop leaks of company information on several Web sites that traffic in Apple news.

The action against Wiley seems meant to shield Jobs's personal privacy, not the company.

But as far as advance publicity goes, Jobs and Apple could not have done a better job in generating buzz for the book in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

Frank Sanchez, the head buyer for Kepler's, a popular bookstore in Menlo Park, Calif., said the store initially ordered five copies. After news of the fracas was reported on the front page of The San Jose Mercury-News on Tuesday, he bumped the order up to 25.

"You know the old saying, 'There's no bad publicity,' " Sanchez said.

Wiley, in response to increased interest in what it calls an "intimate look at a controversial leader," has decided to double the book's initial press run of nearly 50,000 and race it to stores on May 13, a few weeks ahead of its original publication date.

The reaction is no surprise to people who know Jobs well, and certainly not to his many biographers over the years, who have seen his combativeness when it comes to guarding his private life.

"I think he's trying to show people he's serious about protecting his privacy," said Debi Coleman, a co-managing director of SmartForest Ventures in Portland, Ore., who worked closely with Jobs in the 1980s, when she was in charge of Apple's manufacturing. "And now he has the power to do something like pull books."

Parts of the new book are a rehash of Young's 1986 book, "Steve Jobs: The Journey Is the Reward," (Scott Foresman & Company). Young and Simon updated the older book with new material about Jobs' return to Apple, his success with Pixar Animation Studios, his bout with pancreatic cancer, and his marriage.

Written without access to Jobs or people close to him, the book has little new information and will disappoint readers hungry for fresh insights into Jobs.

Yet what the authors lack in firsthand sources they compensate for with attitude. One chapter in the uncorrected proof is titled "iPod, iTune, Therefore I Con." To introduce the section that discusses Jobs' cancer, they write, "Even on Mount Olympus, the gods of Greek legend were not invulnerable."

And in describing Jobs's manner with his employees, the authors describe "the aura of fear Steve carried with him like a dark cloud," adding, "You didn't want to be called in front of him to do a product presentation because he might decide to lop off the product, and you with it."

More than a dozen books about Jobs and Apple have been published over the years.

The biographies, in particular, rankle Jobs, who likes to maintain tight control over all information emanating from his universe, especially anything about his personal life.

"It fits his pattern," said Alan Deutschman, author of "The Second Coming of Steve Jobs" (Broadway Books, 2000). "Steve likes to be in control, and a book by an independent journalist is nothing you can control." Deutschman said Jobs had not spoken with book authors for the last 20 years.

Deutschman faced similar opposition when his book went to press five years ago. Jobs called Peter Olson, chief executive of Random House, to try to persuade him to stop publication of the book. Jobs did not succeed.

Apple's action against Wiley is reminiscent of other fits of corporate pique toward the publication of unflattering portraits.

This month, General Motors withdrew its advertising from The Los Angeles Times because it was irritated at the newspaper's coverage of GM. Chrysler withdrew ads from Car and Driver because of a 1983 article that recounted damage to a Dodge after it hit a steer at 60 miles per hour.

But in this case, the retaliation is hitting other authors who have never run afoul of Jobs. In the last few days, some two dozen popular technical titles, including "Dr. Mac: The OS X Files" and "GarageBand for Dummies" (as well as "Macs for Dummies" by David Pogue, a columnist for The New York Times), were removed from Apple store bookshelves and returned to Wiley's distribution center in New Jersey.

Spilka said that Wiley books sold in Apple stores represent a "tiny fraction" of the annual sales of the company's professional and trade book division.

"It's a sad state of affairs," said Robert LeVitus, author of "GarageBand for Dummies" and other Apple-related titles. "I didn't do anything. I just happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time and got nuked."

In the technology world, even the book's title is raising eyebrows. "With the capital 'C' it reads like, 'I con people; I'm a con man,'" said Jason Snell, editorial director of Macworld magazine in San Francisco.

But Young said the title was not intended to convey negative overtones, and that it was a playful twist on Apple's iPod and iMac. "He's become an icon, bigger than life," Young said.

Katie Cotton, a vice president for corporate communications at Apple, declined to comment about the book or whether Jobs had seen it. And Jobs did not respond to an e-mail message asking for comment.

In a lengthy telephone interview, Young, 53, spent much of the time excoriating Jobs.

"This guy is out of control," Young said. "I'm just a little guy. I'm just one of many guys Steve has destroyed over the years.

"I think he's lost it. He faced mortality, and he knows without some massive change Bill Gates will be remembered as the important person in the computer business, and I think he's lost it over that.

"He has an amazing ability to con people," he said.

Whatever Young's opinion, industry insiders doubt that the book or Apple's retaliatory move will alter how Jobs is viewed in Silicon Valley.

"It is not possible, aside from things unimagined, to damage his reputation," said Mitchell Kertzman, a partner at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners in San Francisco. "Steve is on such a roll in both of his companies, he's earned the right to do whatever he wants."

Steve Jobs's review of his biography: Ban it | CNET

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

All I can say is...YIKES!

Possible Gay Book Ban in Alabama
April 26, 2005 News

A republican lawmaker in Alabama has introduced a bill that will ban books with gay characters or by gay authors.

Gerald Allen’s push is based on his opinion that homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle that should be insulated from Alabama’s children.

Under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.

"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen told CBS News. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

Books with gay characters or by any gay author would be withdrawn including classics by Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. The restrictions of the bill are so drastic that it would include Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.

Allen has been a vocal critic of gay marriage. - Featuresa

We'll Map Manhattan

I propose to create, with the help of the Book Review's readers, a literary map of Manhattan -- not of its authors' haunts but those of their characters, a map of the literary stars' homes.

I began thinking about this map years ago while reading Don DeLillo's ''Great Jones Street.'' Bucky Wunderlick gazes out the window of his ''small crowded room'' at the firehouse across the street. I realized: there's only one firehouse on that street and few buildings that contain tiny apartments rather than commercial lofts. I know where Bucky Wunderlick lives. Or would live if he existed. He's got to be at No. 35. Knowing this made walking around the neighborhood like walking through the novel. But I walked without a map. Shouldn't there be a map of imaginary New Yorkers?

It would be a lush literary landscape -- the house on Washington Square where Catherine Sloper waited and yearned, the coffee shops where the characters of Ralph Ellison and Isaac Bashevis Singer quarreled and kibbitzed, the offices where John Cheever's people spent their days, the clubs where Jay McInerney's creatures wasted their nights, the East 70's and Upper West Side avenues where the Glass family bickered (Salinger gives several addresses), downtown where Ishmael wandered the docks.

This first map will display fiction set in Manhattan (in the future, I can imagine maps of Brooklyn, Chicago, London and more). It could include novels, poems and stories from all eras (from Hart Crane to James Baldwin to Michael Chabon to William Gibson) and all genres -- literary fiction (Truman Capote, the Roths, Henry and Philip), pop fiction (Bertice Berry and Sophie Kinsella), Ed McBain mysteries, Ira Levin thrillers, children's books (Faith Ringgold's ''Tar Beach,'' E. B. White's ''Stuart Little''). It will be a kind of Global Positioning System for the characters of Dawn Powell, Han Ong, Meg Wolitzer, Mario Puzo, Colson Whitehead, Tom Wolfe and Thomas Pynchon (from ''V.'' -- ''This alligator was pinto: pale white, seaweed black.'' Where is that alligator? Where is the sewer where Benny Profane hunted it down?)

Since nobody is widely enough read -- I'm not widely enough read -- to know the haunts and houses, the offices and bars and subway stops of so diverse a population, I appeal to Book Review readers to send in their favorites. The graphic artist Nigel Holmes and I will put them on the map and credit the first person to submit a site we use.

Sometimes that information is explicit. ''In my wallet was a supply of engraved cards reading Archie Goodwin, With Nero Wolfe, 922 West 35th Street.'' (In other books, Rex Stout gives the street number as 506, 618 and 938.) Curiously, the 900 block of West 35th Street would be in the Hudson River -- it's a non-address, the real estate equivalent of those 555 telephone numbers used in movies.

Locating other houses requires close reading or at least alert looking. Bernard Waber places Lyle, Lyle Crocodile for us: ''This is the house. The house on East 88th Street.'' But where on East 88th Street? The clue comes in an illustration: the amiable reptile stands on his front stoop looking at a house to his left marked No. 234. That puts Lyle's own house at No. 236. Alas, a visit to the block shows not the charming brownstone where Lyle lolled but an ordinary tenement. Lyle's house, like Lyle, is a fiction. As it happens, Harriet the Spy lives in the same neighborhood, in a house on East 87th. You'd think someone as clever as she would have noticed a crocodile around the block.

While some houses are an author's creation, others are authentic New York landmarks, akin to the actual historic figures who appear in period fiction. The Plaza Hotel is home to Kay Thompson's Eloise; Woody Allen and F. Scott Fitzgerald characters also checked in. The El Dorado at 90th and Central Park West is where the parents of Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar dwelt in the bourgeois splendor she was so eager to escape.

Houses are not the only sites that merit a place on the map. There is also the lagoon at the southeast corner of Central Park that Holden Caulfield frets over (where do the ducks go when it freezes?), and the beautiful St. George's Church on Stuyvesant Square where ''Kay Leiland Strong, Vassar '33, the first of her class to run around the table at the Class Day dinner, was married to Harald Petersen, Reed '27'' in ''The Group,'' by Mary McCarthy.

Some addresses can only be approximated. In Edith Wharton's ''House of Mirth'' Lily Bart drifts toward Lawrence Selden's apartment in the Benedick without quite meaning to. ''As she reached 50th Street . . . she decided to walk across to Madison Avenue.'' Midblock, she notices ''the Georgian flat-house with flower boxes on its balconies. . . . A few yards ahead was the doorway they had entered together.'' Even though we know only Selden's block, we'll map it.

Then there are the truly elusive. Melville obscures the address of the faceless office building where Bartleby works -- or prefers not to. The unnamed narrator declares, ''My chambers were up stairs, at No.---- Wall Street.'' The view gives no hint; the windows face an airshaft: ''Within three feet of the panes was a wall.'' Ingenious readers are encouraged to pinpoint this building.

Easier to deduce is the workplace of Vladimir Girshkin in ''The Russian Debutante's Handbook'' by Gary Shteyngart. ''His story begins in New York, on the corner of Broadway and Battery Place, the most disheveled, Godforsaken, not-for-profit corner of New York's financial district. On the 10th floor, the Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society greeted its clients.'' But which corner? Simple. To the south is Battery Park and the Custom House. Bowling Green is on the northeast. Thus, the office can only be in the handsome 10-story building on the north-west corner, at 1 Broadway -- although in the real world there is nothing disheveled about it. Of course Shteyngart's No. 1 Broadway, like all these addresses, is imaginary architecture, as fictional as the characters who inhabit it. But it's no less real, and no less mappable, for that.

To submit an entry: send an email to

Randy Cohen writes ''The Ethicist'' for The Times Magazine.

The New York Times > Books > Sunday Book Review > Essay: We'll Map Manhattan

Woman finds wad of cash in library book

Associated Press
Apr. 27, 2005 07:50 AM

NATCHEZ, Miss. - Who said reading isn't enriching? Michele Anderson recently discovered more than just a great story when she opened a library book. She also found a wad of cash.

The former employee at Armstrong Library pulled a mystery novel off a shelf and noticed a bulge in its dust jacket. She opened the book and discovered what library officials termed was a "substantial" sum of money.

"I felt something in there, and from my time working here, I just had to straighten it out and felt in there and pulled it out," Armstrong said. "I thought, 'Whoa, wait a minute.' "

Library officials declined to say how much money was discovered, or what the title of the book was, so they could locate the money's rightful owner.

The book hasn't been checked out since March 2004, when the library switched its system of tracking books. Before then, the book had been checked out 45 times, but the library's record-keeping system doesn't track previous checkouts.

Susan Cassagne, the library's director, said she believes if the money isn't claimed, it should belong to the library.

Woman finds wad of cash in library book

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