An intimate look at the life of Steve Jobs by the mother of his first child providing rare insight into Jobs's formative, lesser-known years
Steve Jobs was a remarkable man who wanted to unify the world through technology. For him, the point was to set people free with tools to explore their own unique creativity. Chrisann Brennan knows this better than anyone. She met him in high school, at a time when Jobs was passionately aware that there was something much bigger to be had out of life, and that new kinds of revelations were within reach.
The Bite in the Apple is the very human tale of Jobs's ascent and the toll it took, told from the author's unique perspective as his first girlfriend, co-parent, friend, and—like many others—object of his cruelty. Brennan writes with depth and breadth, and she doesn't buy into all the hype. She talks with passion about an idealistic young man who was driven to change the world, about a young father who denied his own child, and about a man who mistook power for love. Chrisann Brennan's intimate memoir provides the reader with a human dimension to Jobs' myth. Finally, a book that reveals a more real Steve Jobs.
|Publisher:||St. Martin''s Publishing Group|
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About the Author
CHRISANN BRENNAN is a painter living in the San Francisco Bay area.
CHRISANN BRENNAN is a painter living in the San Francisco Bay area.
Read an Excerpt
The Bite in the Apple
A Memoir of My Life with Steve Jobs
By Chrisann Brennan
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Chrisann Brennan
All rights reserved.
I first noticed him in early January of my junior year of high school. It was 1972. He wore thin blue jeans that were full of big holes, the torn material hanging in loops around his legs. He was dressed in a nice pressed shirt and tennis shoes and walked then, as he did as an adult, in a forward-falling gait, arms swinging with a contained reserve in his hands. It was a sunny California afternoon in early spring and he was standing in the quad with a small book in his hand. I don't know why I hadn't seen him before, since, as I would find out later, many of my friends knew him. I was drawn to him immediately, and when he walked off campus I followed him, wanting to say something but having no idea what or how. I surprised myself, because I ended up following him out to the edge of the campus three times over the next week. I finally gave up because it was too big a leap for me to introduce myself out of the blue to a boy I thought was cute. I never even learned his name.
A month later my friend and classmate, Mark Izu, started a film project and invited me to do the animation for it. Mark wanted to make a film, combining 2-D animation, Claymation, and actors about how the students at our high school were struggling against forces that we believed wanted to stamp out our individuality. Mark's parents had been interned in a concentration camp for Japanese in the United States during World War II, and even though he didn't know this at the time we were making the movie, he was deeply motivated to speak about what it was to be made invisible. We all had our stories. In the course of the project many people would be invited to contribute, but in the beginning it was just three of us: Mark, myself, and a guy named Steve Eckstein, the cameraman.
We worked on the film at least one Friday or Saturday night a week for about three months, starting at 11:00 p.m. and going until dawn. Mark called the film "Hampstead." A nod to the name of our school — Homestead High School — it was also the name of the stumpy little clay character he made to represent the everyman in the film. Our stage was a raised cement section in the central quad on campus where I usually sat and ate my lunch during the school day. But this was night and we were there without permission, risking God-knows-what if we were caught.
The nights were cold. I was awed by the stars, and I loved that we were out there on our own, making something happen. Our tiny sounds were lost in the expanse of the cavernous, cinder block campus, and it felt like joy to be so focused and quiet, creating something from the margins with that sense of just we few. We worked continuously: Mark and Eckstein behind the camera, exchanging quiet words as they filmed; me under a single, brilliant low-angled spotlight. From a semiprone position I drew my designs frame by frame, careful not to draw too little or too much before getting up and stepping back to pause for the frame to be shot, and then returning. This would go on for hours.
On one night, Mark instructed me to build his clay man out of the ground piece by piece so that it looked like Hampstead was emerging from the cement. He then handed me a second Hampstead that he had cut in half, from which I was to start the emergence scene. Once the little guy was fully out of the cement, I made his arms flail in painful insanity from having been buried alive. Another evening I was to draw a pathway for the little figure to walk down. Using cheap colored chalk, I started by illustrating a soft, morphing pattern that enfolded a mutated shape like a flickering fire. It looked psychedelic, but in truth it was drawn from the memory of my parents' curling cigarette smoke, which I had loved watching as a child in Ohio, just tall enough for my eyes to follow during their monthly poker games with my grandparents.
These were wonderful nights on the Homestead campus and they created a sense of independence and spaciousness in me. If the film was about losing our authenticity, then making it was the antidote. Over time, word got out and people started showing up in twos and threes to see what we were doing. Musicians, cartoonists, late-night stoners, and others joined in, the "Creatives" who represented the gifted and curious Homestead student body. I would look up from my work to see a surprising riot of quiet activity as more and more familiar faces appeared. There was some kind of rare nutrient happiness in all this, and I felt my life filling in around me. By the time the lavender dawn came to end the night, I went home spent, profoundly grateful, and achingly relieved that once again we had not been caught trespassing.
It was maybe a little more than a month into the project when Steve emerged through the darkness and walked straight over to me. I wondered if he'd known that I was interested in him because his path to me was so unerringly direct. But I had told no one. He was tall and beautiful and intentional, a study in contrasts, something like a fine prince in shabby jeans, a little awkward and vulnerable but courageous, too. Behind the small talk we sought out a connection. Then he reached into his pocket and gave me a copy of Bob Dylan's song "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands." I could feel the indent of the letters as I opened the paper, and I wondered if it was typed for me or if he just happened to have it on him and wanted to share it. I never asked. Later I would come to understand that there was a kind of morphic field around Steve. Things happened; they were uncanny, not particularly planned, but perfect.
We talked for about twenty minutes, long enough for me to observe every minuscule detail about him — the power of his intense eyes and his young sensitivity, the sense that he was just passing through. At the end of our conversation I saw him retreat back into himself, and then with an inexplicably harsh scan of me and the quad — a look that seemed to come from nowhere — he disappeared back into the night.
Over the months of working on the film I had plenty of downtime. I found it hard to wait around when I wasn't useful to a scene, so I filled my time by painting a picture copied from the photography book put together by Edward Steichen, called The Family of Man. This book, which I had furtively removed from my mother's bookshelves, was dated and signed by an old boyfriend of hers who had apparently given it to her as a gift. I looked at this book often, and had considered this signature as the limited window into my mother's world before me. It was all so frustrating. Who was this man? Did he and my mother love each other? Many times my mother had told us that she hoped my sisters and I would be undressed by a poet once in our lives. Was he her poet? And why, for God's sake, only once?
The Family of Man is a beautifully conceived book with images from hundreds of contributing photographers from all over the world. It's a treasure that captures the breadth of shared human experience, not just in the photographs, but in the very poetry of the captions.
"The world of man dances in laughter and tears." — Kabir
"Clasp hands and know the thoughts of men from other lands." — John Masefield
"Eat bread and salt and speak the truth." — old Russian proverb
"If I did not work, these worlds would perish." — Bhagavad Gita
"With all beings and all things, we shall be as relatives." — Sioux Indian
I'd pored over this book so many times that it taught me to love the world, to love life, and know myself by way of word and image. I had both drawn and painted from it, and this time I wanted to paint a photograph taken by Homer Page of a South African black man who had been captured with the camera looking directly into his powerful, searching face. The one line under his image is Who is on my side? Who? The book has imprinted my life so profoundly I feel my cells could give an account of it.
I had always liked this photograph; it spoke to me. My great-uncle was Branch Rickey, the man who had the heart and the vision, the power and position to bring Jackie Robinson into the major leagues. They were both heroes of mine and I was proud to be associated with that history. These men embodied the kind of aspirations I had for myself: to be a leader and do something for others, to make a difference. So this painting was, for me, a form of guerilla art. I cared about getting it right. And I cared about making a statement from the margins.
I worked in oils and painted directly on cement at the edge of the quad, in a relatively dark location near the filming. Steve must have seen me working on the painting because he appeared one night happily fumbling with a candle and some matches so that I could see better. That spring, as the film progressed and I painted, Steve would show up to sit next to me while I worked. I was always unspeakably thrilled to see him, and yet I never could stand having someone hover while I worked. My painting was always deeply private and I never painted when people were around. But because I had no idea how to ask him to leave, and because he sat so quietly, barely perched on the seat next to me as if in some kind of transcendent state, I let it be. I pushed the paint around — distracted and noncommittal — and saved the real painting for the nights he didn't come.
* * *
In mid-April, more than a month after our first meeting, Steve and I excitedly decided to meet at his house so that we could spend some time together, just the two of us. He said his parents worked and that we would have the house to ourselves. I agreed that it would be nice to see each other alone in the daytime for once. Since he left school at 1:00 and I got out at 3:30, he drew me a map to his house on Crist Drive, a mile and a half away.
When I arrived at the Jobses' front door Steve motioned to me from his bedroom window — come in. I remember being a little taken aback by his not coming to meet me at the front door. No grand gestures of chivalry on this day. My guess is that he was so nervous he had decided to play it cool. Maybe he had even staged the scene to look casual. I entered the house and turned the corner into his bedroom.
Steve's room was small and almost barrackslike. Everything in it was plain and organized. He had a single bed, a dark-stained wooden bookcase, a chest of drawers, and a small desk under the window that looked out onto the front yard. I noticed a typewriter on his desk, a huge IBM Selectric in a bright shade of red. I was impressed that Steve owned such high-end technology. Etched in my memory from that time is the quality of his hands on that typewriter. He had beautiful, quiet, intelligent hands, with long elegant fingers. When he was typing, the machine would pound out individual letters with such shocking force and velocity that it belied the casual touch of his fingertips. Steve's hands were made for technology. There was a sublime compatibility with the machine in them, natural and unaffected from the beginning.
Other than that typewriter, Steve's room was reminiscent of the boys' rooms I had played in as a child, especially the colors: dull beiges, browns, army greens; harsh, garish oranges, and reds. I didn't like them, but the room felt good because it was bright with some ineffable sense of light and order. I could feel and smell the air of it in Steve's room and near him, and I liked this very much.
Over a year later, he would show me the inside of his closet after he had apparently spent the day cleaning. It was a thing of beauty for its organization. The closet was small but deep, and everything was arranged for the best use of space. Steve's clothes were hung neatly and his backpack, tent, and other camping equipment were looped over hooks in the back. His shoes were arranged on some floor shelving, his tapes were nicely boxed, and his books and other belongings were organized on the top shelf overhead. Sweeping his hand as if performing he said, "Look at this!" I had never seen him proud of cleaning. I didn't really care, but he was positively glowing. It's not too big a stretch to consider this the precursor to his sense for aesthetics — perhaps even his showman's flourish.
Smiling, Steve told me he threw anything away if (a) he wasn't using it and (b) it cost less than $25. Twenty-five dollars was his tipping point, apparently, and it wasn't worth taking up space if he could replace it for that amount or less. He had put real thought into this — weighing the relationship of money, organization, and serviceability (both present and future). It was like child's play showing the mind he would apply later to computer design.
Steve was sitting on the floor when I walked in that first day. His knees were bent and he was leaning against his bed. He had super plush headphones over his ears that plugged into a three-foot-high reel-to-reel tape player. We were both nervous and he made gruff references to his collection of Bob Dylan bootlegs from this or that concert. The importance of all of this was completely lost on me. I was clueless about bootlegs of anything, thinking bootlegging had something to do with alcohol during Prohibition, though I got the drift they were some kind of contraband. It was the beginning of my fragile girl-window into his tender boy-world.
I don't recall the conversation that first spring afternoon. I just remember that it was a little work to get beyond the awkwardness of a new friendship to find out who the other was, who we were together, and how much might be possible. There was that excited feeling in the air. Since he had invited me there and I had accepted, I think both of us knew that doors were opening and love was coming.
* * *
Mark's project was finishing by mid-May and most everyone who had been a part of the weekly events came to celebrate. We threw a formal dinner party in the middle of the night in the central campus, the motherboard of our communal lives. Converging in the freedom of the night air one last time, we, a band of bright happy creatures dressed in gowns and tuxedos (Steve had managed to score a top hat), toasted, ate, and laughed around a long candle-lit table in full Felliniesque style. A quartet and a strobe light made us all feel as if we were in some elegant silent film.
During that spring, with the film and some Saturday afternoon baseball games as backdrop, Steve and I got to know each other better. He didn't talk a lot but he was funny and vibrant and really good at making me laugh. But he was shy. So shy, in fact, that he couldn't give me our first kiss. I was so embarrassed by his trying that I finally kissed him.
After we were together for a while, Steve ventured to tell me that I was his "North Country Girl," the one from the Dylan song who was a true love, the one he would know before fame and wealth came, the one hit by heavy winds. Even then he had placed me in his "life-as-Bob-Dylan" timeline. I didn't understand that I was somehow being set up to play a part in some mythic script he was designing for himself.
I was a small-boned, petite girl — just five feet two. I had long, light brown hair turned gold on the outer layers by the sun. I have a high forehead and slightly elongated face, refined, expressive hands, and green eyes. I am dyslexic, which has had the effect of making me differently wired, creative, and a voracious problem solver — bright, but more than slightly clueless to convention. I suppose Steve would have intuited that I had a perceptive mind with a sense-oriented awareness of the world around me.
What did I see in Steve?
I knew he was a genius when I first saw him because his eyes shone with brilliant, complicated cartwheels of light. In time I came to understand how fully off-the-charts intuitive and mature beyond his years he was, like an old soul with quiet knowledge. He had deep brown hair and marble-white skin — skin that was supersensitive and yet also thick, which I would later realize was not unlike his personality. He had a slight lisp and his upper and lower teeth met perfectly, giving his Middle Eastern lips and nose an even more distinctive look. His smile had the glint of a pirate with treasure in the hull. There was a profound sadness about him that drew me in, but there was also an unspoken fullness in his stature that gave the impression he had the humility and strength to walk through the world as he truly was. I admired this right from the start. I know humility might sound unlikely to some, but it's like the salt in chocolate, the small contrasting flavor that makes you know that the strength is real and true. The mix of all of this came to life in a personality that was irreverent, bright, offbeat, awkward, funny, and full of mystery. I adored him beyond everything, pure and simple.
Excerpted from The Bite in the Apple by Chrisann Brennan. Copyright © 2013 Chrisann Brennan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Note to the Reader,
1. The Creatives,
2. An Absolute Authority,
3. Experimental Flowering in Full Tilt Boogie,
4. The Imposter,
7. The Handbook of Becoming,
9. All One Farm,
10. The Practical and the Poetic,
11. The Guardian at the Gate,
12. Pure Function,
13. Life on Two Levels,
14. Snakes and Ladders,
15. The World of Men,
16. An Old Story,
18. The Reality Distortion Field,
19. Dark Times, Bright Moments,
20. Machine of the Year,
21. Family Ties,
23. The Path of the Hearth,
24. The Watchtower,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
She would know, and I like she did not have to be involved in the hype. It is hype, you know. She is honest, kind and fair. She deserves respect for this book!
It read very disingenuous and author tried really hard at making it "read well" that it made it difficult to really understand their relationship. It came off as someone wanting to make money off the sales of the book but never getting real about the true story. Plus, it was so wordy that it came off as simply fake!
If this were fiction, it would be considered a great American novel. It is profound, heartbreaking, tear-jerking, devastating, sweet, sad, beautiful, disgusting, infuriating, and brutally honest. The emotional truth of this is the flip side of every one of the hundreds of thousands of technical articles about how a computer works, this is how people work. This is a guide to the human soul.