At long last, there’s an official release date — and official cover — for the paperback of Jim Henson: The Biography. It’ll be coming your way on May 10, 2016.
You can pre-order it on Amazon right here, at Barnes & Noble here, or from IndieBound here. And, of course, you can also order it from your favorite bookstore near you.
While I’ve been trying to keep appearances to a minimum as I finish up work on George Lucas, here’s one I couldn’t resist:
I’ll be giving an hour-long presentation on Jim Henson at the Guilderland Public Library in Guilderland, New York, on Friday, February 19, at 2:00 p.m. As an added bonus, the library will have several Muppets on display, on loan courtesy of The Jim Henson Legacy.
Which Muppets, you ask? Ah, that’ll be a surprise for me as well.
The Guilderland Public Library is located at 2228 Western Avenue, just northwest of Albany. And did I mention it’s free? Of course it is — so if you’re in the area, come on by.
Months and months and MONTHS ago, I was interviewed on camera by a crack team of documentarians for a new PBS series called In Their Own Words — the first three episodes of which would feature Queen Elizabeth, Muhammad Ali, and (ta dah!) Jim Henson. Back then, they weren’t quite sure when the series would premiere, but now here it is, all queued up and ready to go on a PBS station near you this September — with the Jim Henson episode slotted for September 15. (Looking over the schedule, it appears there’s also one part of a two-part documentary on Walt Disney airing that evening, so it’s a good night to get your fill of creative geniuses.)
Will I be on camera? I don’t really know; looking at the preview, they got tons of terrific people to talk with them — Frank Oz, Brian and Cheryl Henson, Michael Frith, Neil Patrick Harris — so what are ya looking for ME for anyway? Click on the photo of Jim below and have a look:
In Their Own Words: Jim Henson, airs on September 15 at 8:00 pm — but check your local listings, as they say. Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.
While I’ve been keeping speaking engagements to a minimum as I work on George Lucas, I’m incredibly honored to be asked to speak on Jim Henson at the Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the end of September. I’ll be kicking off the Monday morning session on September 28, down in Vicksburg, Mississippi. For more information, you can check the conference out right here.
My mess of books and binders finally became more than a mere desk could accommodate. I’ve now relocated to the dining room table, which I’ve quickly taken over. We’re at 80,000 words and counting–much, much too long already, but c’mon, when writing about the guy who brought you Star Wars, it’s really hard to be stingy.
Yup, it’s still a mess.
I don’t know who actually posted his — someone calling him/herself “Henson Rarities” — but whoever they are, they’ve posted on YouTube one of my all-time favorite Muppet variety show appearances. It’s Kermit and Grover performing “What Kind of Fool Am I?” on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1970, and it’s a thing of beauty, even with the terrible condition of the video. (Nerd note: Unofficial Official Muppet Historian Craig Shemin actually found a much higher-quality, full color version of this that he unveiled in New York a few years ago, and lemme tell ya, it is a beaut.)
A NOTE FROM BRIAN: I usually prefer to celebrate a subject’s date of birth rather than observe the day he died. But it’s worth noting that twenty-five years ago today — May 16, 1990 — Jim Henson passed away at 1:21 a.m. in New York.
Readers of Jim Henson: The Biography often tell me that they find the chapter on Jim’s death to be both sad and fascinating, especially as the circumstances of Jim’s death have, for the last two-and-a-half decades, been misinterpreted, misreported, or just plain misunderstood. I appreciate hearing that readers find this portion of the book as gratifying as they do heartbreaking. You can thank the Henson family for their openness in discussing Jim’s death, and for providing me with the honor — and responsibility — of reading Jim’s medical records from that day in May 1990.
As we remember Jim on the occasion of his passing, then, I thought I’d do something a bit different. I’m posting below — perhaps for only a limited time — an excerpt from the chapter “Just One Person,” from Jim Henson: The Biography, on the days leading up to and including Jim’s death. We’ll begin on Saturday, May 12, 1990, with Jim and his daughter Cheryl flying to North Carolina to visit his father Paul and stepmother Bobby. Continue reading
Happy Birthday to George Lucas, who turns 71 years old today. The Force is strong with this one.
One of the best things about being a member of Biographers International Organization (BIO) is that each year, we get to vote for the recipient of the Plutarch Award, presented to the best biography of the year.* This is the only international literary award given by biographers to biography, which makes it pretty neat. (It was inspired in part by the Edgar Award, presented each year by the Mystery Writers of America, and the Nebula, given annually by the Science Fiction Writers of America.)
Here’s how it works: each year, a select committee of biographers puts together a list of ten nominees for the year’s best biography.** This list is presented to BIO members in good standing, who then make their selection by secret ballot. The winner (and three runners-up) will be announced (in suitably dramatic fashion, since I’m the one tasked with putting together the ceremony) at BIO’s Annual Conference, which will be held the first weekend in June at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
I should add for the record that as president of BIO, I don’t sit on the Plutarch Nomination Committee, and have no role in of the selection of the ten nominees; like all BIO members in good standing, my responsibility is to simply vote for the book on the list I think is the best.
And what a list it is this year–an interesting, diverse, even somewhat eclectic group of biographies, any of which would be a worthy winner. Wanna see? I won’t make you wait. Here are the ten books nominated for the 2015 Plutarch, listed alphabetically by author:
- Nigel Hamilton, The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- Jeff Hobbs, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace (Scribner)
- John Lahr, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh ( W. Norton & Company)
- Hermione Lee, Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (Knopf)
- Helen Rappaport, The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra (St. Martin’s)
- Andrew Roberts, Napoleon: A Life (Viking Adult)
- Richard Norton Smith, On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller (Random House)
- Will Swift, Pat and Dick: The Nixons, An Intimate Portrait of a Marriage (Threshold Editions)
- Edward White, The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- N. Wilson, Victoria: A Life (Penguin Press)
I’ll be back here in mid-June to let you know who the winner is. And if you’d like to see a list of previous winners (and nominees), click here.
* In 2015, we vote on biographies published in 2014, which is why the medallion reads “2014”
** As a result of this process, we have NO SAD PUPPIES. (And we send kind thoughts to our friends at the Hugo Awards. Lost? Click here for more information on this year’s Hugo kerfluffle.)