Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bruce Lee - The Celebrated Life of the Golden Dragon...A coffee table book to beat up other coffee table books

The folks at Tuttle Publishing sent me Bruce Lee - The Celebrated Life of the Golden Dragon to review.

If you are looking to sit down with a heavy biography, this is not it. Pages are dominated by photographs rather than text - vivid images that span Bruce Lee's childhood, marital arts practice, and his motion picture career. Over 200 candid photos are included, many of which are full-page. The reader can watch Bruce Lee develop and age throughout the series of photos, maturing into both a ground-breaking martial artist and a film star.

As for the text, it is based on the documentary Bruce Lee: In His Own Words. The entire text comprises direct quotes from Bruce Lee himself, taken from diaries and interviews. The reader is treated to an insider look at Lee's personal philosophy. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

On his role in the Green Hornet - "A producer said that he wanted me to play 'a Chinese.' You know, I mean here I am a Chinese - and not being prejudiced or anything but thinking realistically, how many times in a film is a Chinese required? And when he is required, I could immediately see the part - pigtails, chopsticks, and 'ah-sos,' shuffling obediently behind the master who saved my life...Like with the Indian. You never see a human-being Indian on television. But it turned out to be better, so he signed me up."

"I was approached by several businessmen to open a franchise of 'Kato's Self Defense Schools'...but I refused. I think I could have made a fortune if money was what I wanted then. I felt then and I still feel today that I'm not going to prostitute my art for the sake of money."

"Drilling on routines and set patterns will eventually make a person be good according to the routines and set-pattern...A live person is not a dead product of 'this' style or 'that' style, he is an individual, and the individual is always more important than the system." 

Overall, the book was a fast, easy, and enjoyable read. I grew up watching Ghostbusters and Little Mermaid but I am suddenly envious of folks who grew up on Bruce Lee movies. I'm going to have to rent one this weekend.