Mona Simpson’s memorial to brother Steve Jobs
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It was quietly known in the literary world that author Mona Simpson was Steve Jobs’ sister. Her first novel, the bestselling ‘Anywhere but Here,’ led with the dedication, ‘For Joanne, our mother, and my brother Steve.’ Her 1996 novel ‘A Regular Guy’ featured a character who, like Jobs, was a technology magnate.
‘I’m always aware that people will look for parallels in real life, but I’m not writing autobiography,’ she told Salon in 1996. ‘Fiction confuses people because you know there’s probably some little nuggets of the person’s life jumbled up in their work, but you don’t know what they are. Artists represent boundary-crossers in our society, so everybody’s looking to them, hoping they’re having great, dangerous experiences. But a lot of fiction writers have relatively boring lives, because they’re living in other worlds half the time. I don’t think I’ve ever revealed anything about my family in this or any of my books. There are no secrets exposed.’
The siblings had an unusual story. Their American mother and Syrian-immigrant father were in a relationship, and she became pregnant. But facing resistance about their union, they gave up the baby for adoption. That was Steve. They eventually married and had another baby -- Mona -- and then split up. Mona came to know her brother only after she was contacted, at age 25, by an attorney.
That story, and the news of their relationship, is now widely known: It’s in Simpson’s moving eulogy for her older brother. She gave it at a service on Oct. 16, and it was printed in Sunday’s N.Y. Times.
I want to tell you a few things I learned from Steve, during three distinct periods, over the 27 years I knew him. They’re not periods of years, but of states of being. His full life. His illness. His dying. Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day. That’s incredibly simple, but true.... Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times. Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve’s final words were: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.
The biography ‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson remains at the top of Amazon’s bestseller list.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Left photo: Mona Simpson in Los Angeles. Credit Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times
Right photo: Steve Jobs in 2006. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press