Jim Henson: The Biography

Brian Jay Jones. Ballantine, $35 (592p) ISBN 978-0-345-52611-3
The Sesame Street auteur who made the Muppets into a global entertainment and merchandising juggernaut seems almost as winsome as his cute, furry creations in this adulatory biography. Jones (Washington Irving: An American Original) styles Henson as a polite and soft-spoken but charismatic figure whose “faith in his fellow man was unbounded,” and whose defining characteristics were “staggering” generosity and an unerring instinct for “playing nice.” The worst sins the author can dredge up are affordable penchants for fast cars and gambling and some affairs after Henson separated from his wife. Jones makes a meatier, though overstated, case for Henson as a genius—he soft pedals the fact that Henson’s non-Muppet projects usually bombed—who revolutionized puppetry with televisual mise-en-scène; flexible, expressive, close-up-ready faces; and edgy humor that often climaxed in explosions or Muppet cannibalism. The book’s most engrossing passages explore the extraordinary technical demands of creating naturalistic puppet spectacles in the age before computer graphics: “performing” a Muppet was an intricate, almost contortionistic dance of two puppeteers crammed into a single sleeve, and one swampy movie scene required Henson to manipulate a banjo-playing Kermit the Frog while sealed in a diving bell. Jones presents a rather bland show-biz saga, but with a fascinating making-of documentary woven in. Photos. Agent: Jonathan Lyons, Lyons Literary. (Sept. 24)
Reviewed on: 07/22/2013
Release date: 09/24/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 17 pages - 978-0-8041-2864-3
Paperback - 608 pages - 978-0-345-52612-0
Open Ebook - 426 pages - 978-0-345-52613-7
Paperback - 608 pages - 978-0-7535-5514-9
Hardcover - 592 pages - 978-0-7535-5508-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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