Jim Henson: The New Biography by Brian Jay Jones

The first in-depth biography about Jim Henson "Jim Henson", by Brian Jay Jones, was published last month on his birthday, and I quickly got a hold of a copy and eagerly devoured it. 

I started with reservations, and lots of questions.  Would it be true to him?  Would it capture his spirit?  Would it discuss his creative process and vision or would it be salacious and too personal.  Well, the book was authorized by his family, so there was little to be worried about to that extent.  However, it might gloss over any flaws and present him as a shining beacon of perfection.  It might be completely dry, and tinged with golden hues like a lot of the material on Disney.  But after the first twenty or so pages that cover his family history, and were to me a little confusing, I'm glad to say the book is engrossing, sweet spirited, and perfectly walks the line of personal and professional.  It explores his genius, his desires and drives and dreams and his shortcomings in the context of a whole person, delves into how his being and his vision affected his work and the world in a truly wonderful way, and it also acknowledges that his workaholic tendencies and his desire to avoid confrontation did not always make him an easy person to be an intimate partner with.  It's really fair to all the people, and I was glad to see it shined a light on some of the wonderful contributions that Jane Henson provided both to the business and to his family life.  Too often I think she gets short shrift, and that doesn't happen here. 

There is so much in this book that is wonderful.  There are great glimpses at what a gentle and generous soul he was, and what a prolific and sensitive artist he was, with lots of behind the scenes peeks at what it was on the set of television shows Sesame StreetThe Muppet Show, and his films The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth.  Most importantly, it makes you want to delve deeper into the work he and his colleagues left behind.  So much of it is available on DVD and online, and it's worth watching.  If you haven't, please take a look at some of the early works as well as the later.  , and on DVD.  Steep in it.  You won't be sorry you did.  Here's one of my personal favorites...

To close, I want to share a passage in Jim's own words that are in the bio and discuss his personal philosophy of life, and that I found pretty inspiring...

"I’ve read and studied about various other ways of thinking, and I like the way most religions are based on the same good, underlying principals… I believe in taking a positive attitude toward the world, toward people, and toward my work.  I think I’m here for a purpose.  I think it’s likely that we all are here, but I’m only sure about myself.  I try to tune myself in to whatever it is that I’m supposed to be, and I try to think of myself as a part of all of us-all mankind and all life.  I find it’s not easy to keep these lofty thoughts in mind as the day goes by, but it certainly helps me a great deal to start out this way… Despite this discussion of things spiritual, I still think of myself as a very “human” being, I have the full complement of weaknesses, fears, problems, ego and sensuality.  But I think this is why we’re here-to work our way through all this and, hopefully come out a bit wiser and better for having gone through it all.”
Joe Hartman