1 The Muppet Mindset: Brief Thoughts on "Jim Henson - The Biography"

Aug 8, 2013

Brief Thoughts on "Jim Henson - The Biography"

Ryan Dosier - Two weeks ago, I was beyond lucky to receive an advanced copy of the upcoming book Jim Henson - The Biography by Brian Jay Jones. Thanks to the immense kindness of the author, Brian Jay Jones, Random House sent me a copy to read and enjoy. And then, again thanks to Brian, I've been allowed to write up a few thoughts about the book for the site. So, here goes.

Jim Henson - The Biography is an astounding piece of writing. What Brian Jay Jones captured in 500 pages is nothing short of the most definitive, most complete, most painstakingly impressive account of Jim Henson's life that has ever been produced. No stone is left unturned in this beautiful piece of work spanning Jim's ancestors in Civil War times all the way up to Jim's memorial service in May, 1990. Seriously, I learned so much and appreciated so much more about every single project that Jim Henson worked on that I was completely stunned by the end of the book. This is no crash course in Muppet history, this is a fully detailed textbook with every piece of information you could want. But unlike a textbook, Jim Henson - The Biography is immensely entertaining, funny, witty, smart, heartwarming and, of course, heart breaking.

Some fellow Muppet fans I've talked to have been concerned that Jim Henson - The Biography might somehow paint Jim or the people who worked with him in a bad light. Let me dispell this concern because it could not be farther from the truth. Jones paints Jim in a light as bright as ever and humanizes him in a wonderful way. For years Jim Henson was this god-like figure to me with no faults, but Jones' writing not only shows that yes, he was an undeniable genius and renaissance man, but he was capable of missteps. Jones looks at Jim's faults and "failures" (since they really weren't total failures) from an analytical eye, pointing out why projects are not as beloved as others, why Jim or one of his colleagues may have acted the way they did, or why people vied for Jim's attention so voraciously. This biography is a perfect picture of who Jim Henson was, why people loved him, and how much the entire world was in awe of him--it's impossible not to love him and be in awe of him yourself by the end of it.

What comes across the strongest in Jim Henson - The Biography is just how impressive, dedicated, brilliant, hardworking, hilarious, and well-meaning Jim Henson was always. Brian Jay Jones' writing is a beautiful, well-deserved love letter to a man who created happiness for the world. Jones clearly loves Jim Henson as much as any Muppet fan, and it comes across in stunning detail on the pages of his book. You will learn so many things about Jim, Jane Henson, the Henson kids, Bernie Brillstein, David Lazer, Frank Oz, Jerry Juhl, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, and an unending slew of other names than you can't find anywhere else. Jones was given unprecedented access to Henson archives and it is unbelievably clear that he made great use of that access.

So much for being brief, eh? But really, I cannot come up with enough positive adjectives for Jim Henson - The Biography. Every page is crammed with a new piece of information, an incredible story, a meaningful quote, or a detailed account of a great moment in Jim's life. The highest compliment I can give the book, however, came in the final chapter. Jones covered Jim Henson's final days on Earth in such beautiful, amazing detail that I cried not once, not twice, but three separate times before hitting the final page. Every chapter in the book is perfect, but the final chapter is something even more. Kudos to Brian for capturing it so beautifully in his writing.

Muppet fans, if you only buy one piece of Jim Henson related merchandise this year, please make it Jim Henson - The Biography. It contains information about everything you could ever want to know about Jim Henson (and I mean that) and there is virtually nothing better you could buy as a fan of Jim and Jim's creations. Buy it for yourself, buy it to educate your friends and family about why you love this man, but just buy it. I guarantee you will never regret it. The book is a stunning tribute to Jim and far and away the best piece of media ever produced about the life of this modern day genius. Thanks to Brian Jay Jones for creating this simply perfect piece of work. I can't wait to read this essential book again.

Pre-order Jim Henson - The Biography by Brian Jay Jones right now on Amazon for only $23.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

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