Elon Musk’s biographer Walter Isaacson is ‘too close to his subject’ and avoids tough topics like his estrangement from his trans daughter and racial discrimination claims at Tesla plant, reviewers say

  • Critics call out Isaacson for barely mentioning apartheid in Musk’s childhood
  • They claim the author failed to ask hard questions and let Musk lead the story

Reviews are rolling in for Walter Isaacson’s newly released biography on Elon Musk, and critics largely agree the book isn’t tough enough on the SpaceX billionaire.

While some are praising Isaacson’s use of colorful anecdotes to pull back the curtain on the world’s wealthiest man, others think Musk took control of the narrative and are calling out the author for not asking the hard questions.

In 2021, the famous biographer started a two-year journey shadowing the Tesla CEO and owner of Twitter (X), interviewing his friends, family, colleagues and loved ones.

Isaacson starts with Musk’s childhood in South Africa where Musk was bullied and grew up around violence, but barely mentions apartheid.

‘Musk’s childhood sounds bad, but Isaacson’s telling leaves out rather a lot about the world in which Musk grew up,’ writes Jill Lepore for The New Yorker.

A well-known biographer, Isaccson has written about Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein

Musk recently made headlines when Grimes alleged one of his baby mamas block her and he was not allowing her to see their son

Isaacson’s biography on Musk released on September 12

‘There are no other people, and there are certainly no Black people, the nannies, cooks, gardeners, cleaners, and construction workers who built, for white South Africans, a fantasy world,’ writes Lepore. 

‘And so, for instance, we don’t learn that in 1976, when Elon was four, some twenty thousand Black schoolchildren in Soweto staged a protest and heavily armed police killed as many as seven hundred. Instead, we’re told, “As a kid growing up in South Africa, Elon Musk knew pain and learned how to survive it.”’

Los Angeles Times columnist Brian Merchant coins the authors relationship with the subject ‘the Isaacson Accord.’

‘Worse, in exchange for unprecedented access, the Isaacson Accord demands that a lot of the most difficult and pressing questions go unasked and, therefore, unanswered,’ writes Merchant.

The Los Angeles Times columnist says, ‘It’s the book Musk would have written himself.’ And he is not the only reviewer to share the sentiment.

‘The larger concern is whether Isaacson’s heavy reliance on Musk as a primary source throughout his reporting kept him too close to his subject. Swaths of the book are told largely through Musk’s eyes and those of his confidants,’ says Washington Post writer Will Oremus. 

‘And the majority of tales about his exploits cast him as the genius protagonist even as they expose his self-destructive tendencies or his capacity for cruelty.’

The Los Angeles Times also critiques Isaacson for omitting any information on claims of racial discrimination at Tesla factories and wrongful termination of an employee fired for involvement in union organizing.

Merchant goes on to call out the irony of how Musk speaks of his father to the treatment of his own children.

‘While a major focus of the book is the impact of Musk’s abusive father and the traits that might have been passed down, Isaacson speeds past any explanation of the falling out with Musk’s trans daughter, Jenna, allowing Musk to file it away as her political views simply having grown too radical,’ he writes.

A court granted Musk’s daughter a legal gender and name change in 2022

Musk and Zilis are pictured for the first time with the twins they conceived through IVF

Musk’s daughter Vivian legally changed her name and gender last year

Musk’s 19-year-old child legally changed her gender to female and her name to Vivian Jenna Wilson last year.

Talking about his riff with his daughter, Musk partly blames the Los Angeles high school she attended for indoctrinating her with the woke agenda.

Isaacson asks Musk why he gets offended by political correctness, and Musk responds saying the woke-mind virus must be stopped or human civilization will never become multiplanetary.

The New York Times calls out Isaacson’s lack of a follow up to his claims, ‘There are a number of curious assertions in that sentence, but it would have been nice if Isaacson had pushed him to answer a basic question: What on earth does any of it even mean?’

Journalist Kara Swisher sums up the book as, ‘Sad & smart son slowly morphs into mentally abusive father he abhors except with rockets, cars & more money. Often right, sometimes wrong, petty jerk always. Might be crazy in good way, but also a bad way. Pile o’ babies. Not Steve Jobs.’

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