Jim Henson: The Biography ★☆☆☆☆

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Title: Jim Henson: The Biography
Series: ———-
Authors: Brian Jones
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 591
Words: 215K



Synopsis:

From the Publisher

For the first time ever—a comprehensive biography of one of the twentieth century’s most innovative creative artists: the incomparable, irreplaceable Jim Henson

He was a gentle dreamer whose genial bearded visage was recognized around the world, but most people got to know him only through the iconic characters born of his fertile imagination: Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Miss Piggy, Big Bird. The Muppets made Jim Henson a household name, but they were just part of his remarkable story.

This extraordinary biography—written with the generous cooperation of the Henson family—covers the full arc of Henson’s all-too-brief life: from his childhood in Leland, Mississippi, through the years of burgeoning fame in America, to the decade of international celebrity that preceded his untimely death at age fifty-three. Drawing on hundreds of hours of new interviews with Henson’s family, friends, and closest collaborators, as well as unprecedented access to private family and company archives, Brian Jay Jones explores the creation of the Muppets, Henson’s contributions to Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, and his nearly ten-year campaign to bring The Muppet Show to television. Jones provides the imaginative context for Henson’s non-Muppet projects, including the richly imagined worlds of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth—as well as fascinating misfires like Henson’s dream of opening an inflatable psychedelic nightclub.

An uncommonly intimate portrait, Jim Henson captures all the facets of this American original: the master craftsman who revolutionized the presentation of puppets on television, the savvy businessman whose dealmaking prowess won him a reputation as “the new Walt Disney,” and the creative team leader whose collaborative ethos earned him the undying loyalty of everyone who worked for him. Here also is insight into Henson’s intensely private personal life: his Christian Science upbringing, his love of fast cars and expensive art, and his weakness for women. Though an optimist by nature, Henson was haunted by the notion that he would not have time to do all the things he wanted to do in life—a fear that his heartbreaking final hours would prove all too well founded.

An up-close look at the charmed life of a legend, Jim Henson gives the full measure to a man whose joyful genius transcended age, language, geography, and culture—and continues to beguile audiences worldwide.

My Thoughts:

This is getting a 1star instead of the dreaded 1/2star & the tag “worst book of the year” simply because I learned a LOT about Jim Henson. Having seen what I have of Muppets, Fraggle Rock, etc, I can clearly see Henson’s fingerprints now that I know what to look for. That part was quite interesting and I think it will make my viewing of future movies and shows that much richer.

However, my main problem with this book wasn’t about or with Jim Henson, per se, but more with the author, Brian Jones. This was technically a biography but more than that, it was a puff piece, a love letter, a psalm of worship from an acolyte to his god. When somebody tells the life story of someone else, they have a duty to tell ALL of that life story, not just the good parts.

Any bad parts of Henson’s life was mentioned in one sentence when it occurred and then glossed over or ignored for the rest of the book. When interviewing people about Henson, only the most positive things were included, even from his wife, who he had separated from and was sleeping with other women. Every statement about Henson was positive and every statement by other people was positive. While I could have accepted that Henson led a charmed life and was charismatic and talented enough to draw everyone into his wake, people are people and have bad things to say. I’m not saying Jones should have been a muckraker or that I was looking for a smear campaign, but what I read wasn’t real in the sense that it simply didn’t present reality as we know it. Henson’s brother died. It got maybe 2 sentences then and maybe 4 out of the entire book and Jones never showed it affecting Henson.

Jones was given access to the Henson life in terms of private journals, etc and I suspect part of the deal was that he would only write good things. It was like reading cotton candy by the end of the book. Even Henson’s swift death by a virulent strain of pneumonia shows him as a giant teddy bear having his back rubbed by his ex-wife (technically not ex as they never divorced) and his death being some big “oopsie”. The tone of the entire book is fluff. While I learned a lot about Henson, and like I said before I think it will make my watching of his works that much more informed, I did not like being “handled” by the author as I was.

To end, if you want to learn about Henson, you can read this book and you’ll learn a lot. If you don’t mind literary cotton candy, this will work perfectly for you. If you want a full picture of Henson, try some other book because this author point blank refuses to give you that picture. I am very disappointed with how this turned out.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

32 thoughts on “Jim Henson: The Biography ★☆☆☆☆

  1. That’s a pity, if I read about someone, I want to get the full picture, not just the sanitized version… it seems this should be title “Jim Henson: The Hagiography” 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, that was a very awkward sentence. I should have taken the time to construct it better. But Jimboy doesn’t deserve my time, so he got stuck with that!
      But to satisfy your salacious curiosity, Jim and his wife separated but never divorced. He also was sleeping around and trying to get involved in serious relationships with other women.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. What a bummer. It obviously didn’t fit his personal agenda. To me, a biographer has the obligation to be truthful. I’d rate it low as well.

    With that said, I’ve seen people attack books and authors for the content they bring to light, like with Michael Jackson biographies. I suppose that’s why the authors want to hide the truth in the end.

    Excellent, honest review. Hope you can find a more truthful biography on him.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Informationally, this was pretty close to a 4star. I learned a lot that explained stuff about the Muppet show, the movies, Fraggle Rock, etc. But the glare of the halo that was painted on just didn’t do it for me.

      No one wants to believe that their heroes are fallen, but we all know people are people.

      Honestly, I doubt I’ll search out anything else about him. I’ve learned enough and since I don’t like him as a person, the effort to track down more isn’t worth it now.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. No, it wasn’t totally bad. But non-fiction gets judged (ie, star’d) very differently than fiction. Much higher standards when something is called a biography instead of “memoirs” or some sort of tell-all. Biography has connotations that this author totally failed to fulfill.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s unfortunate. As you said, they don’t have to be a muckraker but adding in some of the faults or problems makes the person more real, more relatable. I can understand why a family would want to present someone in their best light, but I think it often does a diservice to the person in a way they don’t realize. I recall when I was reading Snowball, an “authorized” biography of Warren Buffet, the author had been told by Buffett that if they heard two sides of a story to publish the more negative one and that would likely give a more realistic picture. I appreciated that. I recall the book I’d read about Jim Henson had been primarily a business book, so it didn’t really get into the kinds of life details that this one likely did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A more hardnosed and realism approach would have been much more appreciated by me. Thankfully, I still gleaned enough that I didn’t feel I wasted my time. But I did feel duped 😦

      Like

    2. Buffett’s a smart guy. I’ve heard that he also keeps someone in his inner circle on the payroll to always argue against every idea he has because he knows that being such a successful investor he knows that he’s surrounded by yes-men who will never tell him when they think he’s doing something stupid. Seems like the same common sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, that a shock! Having not read the book, I’d have to side with you Booky; as Alex says, writing a biography is always a very difficult task to appease all sides – sometimes it’s better to displease few and please many, but it seems like Brian over here went in the opposite direction…

    Liked by 1 person

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