Sunday, March 23, 2014

Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products by Leander Kahney

I am an Apple enthusiast, and I look forward to books about the company. I was not that impressed, though, with this particular book on Jony Ive. This book was immensely readable, but I found that I knew most of the information already. While I appreciated the (seemingly brief) presentation of Ive's biographical details—such as his link to evangelical Christianity in his younger days—I was seduced by the promise of a revelatory look into Ive's design studio, where all would be revealed.

Ive seems a kind person in public, and the book suggests that this is a genuine personality trait on his part. But he comes across a bit like Jobs in the Isaacson biography: arrogant and somewhat narcissistic. But I don't doubt Ive's altruistic motives in designing at Apple (though I suspect many might), and I don't doubt his genius. I am a very big fan of Apple design, and it was the Bondi Blue iMac—and an early version of OSX—that really captured me way back in 1998 or so. I suppose I wanted to read a book about the design language that Ive developed at Apple. Instead, I got a dissatisfying glimpse behind the scenes of one of my most compelling worlds.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Generation A by Douglas Coupland

What can I say about this book? I have always been a big fan of Douglas Coupland's work, but I fear that I might have grown out of it. That seems strange to say: I've written a paper on Coupland, used his work in classes and presentations, I've heard him speak and met him a number if times. I own pretty much all of his writing; most of my Coupland books are signed by him. At one point, I had a binder of all of the Coupland writing I could find, be it online or in magazines. I say all of this to say that I was not very impressed with Generation A.

The book explores some compelling, albeit fictional, ideas regarding semiotics and the decoding of written communication, as well as physiological effects of narrative creation and the development of new forms of, say, cognitive life. But I do feel that Coupland repeats himself, and I almost feel personally slighted by him. Does he care about his readers? I cannot speak for him as a person (when I have met him, he has always seemed to be a generous and kind fellow, spending extra moments to speak to me at our last meeting in Winnipeg), but I feel he doesn't.

Or maybe Coupland is no longer appealing to me: he is part of my past, and feeds that more melancholy (for the sake of melancholy) me of years ago. In any case, I didn't feel satisfied by this book, and it doesn't make me want to read his newest novel, though I will.

I feel bad about this. Douglas Coupland is one of these defining authors for me. I can't bear to say he was.