Everyone knows that Jim Henson was the creator of the muppets and was instrumental in the creation of Sesame Street. But that is really where my knowledge of Henson stopped.
My shortest review of this book is that if you like Steve Job biography by Walter Isaacson, you would like this one. Both were in depth looks at men that were known because of their creations. So the books are as much about their companies as they are about the men themselves.
But the comparisons between the two are much deeper than that. Jim Henson and Steve Jobs were both visionaries that seemed to have the power to draw people around them. And the power to inspire people to work harder than they thought possible to make those visions come true. And both died from theoretically preventable causes in their mid 50s. (Jim Henson died of pneumonia at 53. Steve Jobs of cancer at 56.)
In both cases one of the themes of the biographies is the toll in relationships that it took to be a great creator. Although clearly people like Jim Henson in a way that people didn’t seem to like Steve Jobs, Henson. In Henson’s case, he lived his work. Vacations were often just time away from the office so he could work on developing ideas for the next project. And friends were the people he worked with because he did not have time to know other people.
One of the nice surprises of the book is that he seemed to be a genuinely good father. In far too many cases, of ‘great men’ their children are sacrificed for the sake of the work. This is true not just of people like Steve Jobs, but also many Christians like EM Bounds or AW Tozer.
Brian Jay Jones extensively interviewed Henson’s family and friends and had access to the full archives including journals and letters. And even Henson’s wife, Jane, who was separated from Jim for many years was clearly extensively interviewed and overwhelmingly positive in her assessment of Jim. But it was their relationship that suffered from Jim’s work more than any other.
This is a long biography (over 600 pages and more than 21 hours on audio). So there will be more detail than many will want, that is the nature of comprehensive biographies. This is an admiring look at Henson. And while weaknesses are clearly shown, the focus is on Henson as a great creator and visionary.
As a note, I listened to this as an audiobook borrowed from the library. Kirby Heyborne narrates the book and does a pretty good job of doing the voices of the characters involved. I was not sure I really liked the voices initially, but they grew on me and they were well done.