In Review: December 1, 1999
One writer's life
A bicoastal Alan Deutschman '87 juggles book and magazine projects
Earlier this year, Alan Deutschman '87 had almost finished his first book, with the working title of The Chip: A Short History of a Very Small Object, when another project bumped it into second place. An editor at Broadway Books asked him to write a book on the comeback of Apple Computer cofounder Steve Jobs. "They asked me to put everything else on hold and get it done in eight months," he says. Meeting his October deadline, Deutschman expects the book to be out some time next year.
Not that Deutschman planned to be writing for a living. "I went to Princeton expecting to become a professor or a lawyer," says Deutschman, who grew up in Marlboro, New Jersey. "I knew I wanted to write for Triangle, and I was planning to get good grades and prepare for graduate school." But free daiquiris enticed him to a freshman orientation meeting at the campus publication Business Today, and within a year he had become its editor-in-chief. He also ended up writing the
On the Campus column for paw, and working as a stringer for Newsweek.
When Deutschman graduated, it took him almost a year before he landed a job as a lowly fact-checker at Fortune. A combination of talent and persistence got him the break he needed. He would submit story ideas to the editors, who soon started assigning them to staff writers. But Deutschman pestered the editors until they assigned him one. He was eventually promoted to associate editor, and in 1992, the magazine sent him west as its Silicon Valley correspondent. Three years later, he quit to write a novel. The switch to fiction was harder than he had anticipated, though, and when his savings started to diminish, he began writing freelance magazine articles. In 1996 he returned to New York as a senior writer at Gentleman's Quarterly, covering business.
Early last year, Deutschman was ready to go independent again, when he happened on the microchip idea. "It was perfect," says Deutschman. "There are a lot of fascinating characters. Six members of the original 'Traitorous Eight' are still alive, and I was able to meet five of them. Silicon Valley was essentially invented by William Shockley, who went there in the 1950s-just because his mother happened to live there-and founded Shockley Semiconductor. He was a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, but not a great manager, so these eight men left to found their own company, Fairchild Semiconductor. That was the Big Bang that transformed the area from primarily apricot orchards into the high-tech center of the world. Two of those men later left Fairchild and founded Intel."
The research on Jobs has been no less fascinating. "He was pushed out of Apple in 1985," Deutschman recounts, "and went on to found NeXT, which had extremely impressive but very expensive technology. In 1996, Apple bought NeXT, and Jobs came back and dramatically turned Apple around." Deutschman found writing about Jobs an exhilarating experience. "Jobs is brilliant, incredibly charismatic, and creative," Deutschman says. "He has a dark side, though; he's mercurial. He has a fiery temperament, but he's an intriguing character."
Deutschman is now bicoastal, with apartments in Manhattan and in San Francisco. In addition to working on his books about the microchip and Jobs, he's a writer-at-large for GQ, a contributing editor to New York magazine and Vanity Fair, and he's looking around for the next big project.
-Heather Liston '83
Heather Liston is a freelance writer living in New York.
A sampling of recent books of interest to Princetonians
Sons & Brothers: The Days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy, by Richard D. Mahoney '73 (Arcade, $27.95). Mahoney attempts to answer a lingering question: What was the relationship between the administration of John F. Kennedy and his assassination? He also considers the disturbing possibility that Robert Kennedy's zeal while attorney general could have contributed to his brother's murder. Mahoney, who has scholarly and personal experience with the Kennedys to lean on, backs up an informal writing style with nearly 100 pages of notes.
Bowing to Necessities: A History of Manners in America, 1620-1860, by C. Dallett Hemphill '79 (Oxford University Press, $35). Miss Manners may be the etiquette guru of the '90s, but she has many predecessors who counseled readers on the appropriate social niceties of hand kissing, bows, curtsies, and handshakes. Hemphill, spurred by her great-great-grandfather's diary entry on his awkward bowing, examined diaries and letters as well as conduct books for her historical perspective. She found the "little rules" of social encounters made interesting commentary on the larger rules of social order as Americans evolved from European roots in a hierarchical society and embraced democracy. Hemphill is a history professor at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania.
A Suite for Lucretians, by James Richardson '71 (Quarterly Review of Literature Poetry Books, Princeton, $15, paper). In his afterword, Richardson, who teaches English and creative writing at Princeton, writes he started out wanting to be a physicist and ended up a poet. He blends his attraction to both worlds in Suite, with a nod to the ancient poet and scientist Lucretius. The action is in the present but the wonder of the world when observed sharply by Lucretius hovers throughout. Richardson's collection of poems is one of two plays and four books of poetry published in a special double issue of the Quarterly Review.
Religious Freedom and Evangelization in Latin America, Paul E. Sigmund, editor (Orbis, $25). Sigmund considers how Catholicism, Protestantism, and new evangelical faiths have influenced societies in 11 countries, from Cuba to Venezuela. Historical perspectives as well as economics are treated in separate essays. The tensions between former authoritarian governmental controls and freedom to worship will continue, writes Sigmund in his introduction, but human rights advocacy worldwide is likely to receive increasing support throughout the Southern Hemisphere, allowing religious freedom to flourish. Sigmund, a professor of politics, specializes in political theory and Latin American politics.
The Multiple Identities of the Middle East, by Bernard Lewis (Schocken, $21).To Western observers trying to understand the complicated ties at work between peoples in the Middle East, Lewis contributes historic background and cultural elucidation. He addresses religion, race and language, country and state, aliens and infidels. Lewis, the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, emeritus, who has written numerous books on the region, does not offer solutions here; he writes to inform.
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