Tuesday, March 24, 2015

3.5 Stars for Bruce Lee Artist for Life

In the interests of full disclosure, I was given this book by the publisher for review purposes

Title: Bruce Lee Artist of Life
Edited by : John Little
Publisher: Tuttle
Page Count: 261
Cover Price: $18.95 (USD)

    Every martial artist is going to be eventually confronted with the images and writings of Bruce Lee.  Regardless of what martial art you practice, he is an inescapable force in martial arts.  He has almost become the patron saint of martial artists.  At some point most martial artist want to learn more about the man.

    This book takes a different take on him.  It looks at the process of how Bruce's now famous ideologies came to be, most often using Bruce's own written words. 


    The book starts off with an forward by Linda Lee Cadwell describing Bruce as not only a martial artist, but as an artist of life.  Then the editor John Little offers his own piece in the introduction and first chapter where Mr. Little sort of explains some of the more common philosophies of Bruce Lee, often quoting directly from handwritten notes that Bruce Lee took on everything.  What follows though is the real meat of the book.  It is collections of Bruce Lee's notes transcribed.  It starts out with his notes and papers from his philosophy classes at University of Washington.  It follows the same set, but each section shifts emphasis of one aspect of Bruce's life.  The list of subjects covered by these notes include psychology, poetry, Jeet Kun Do, acting, and finally self knowledge, which is sort of a running theme through the rest of the sections anyway.


    I really liked how book gives a look at the process, not the product, of Bruce Lee.  The philosophy section in particular was fascinating for me.  By looking at how he took notes about Socrates and Rene Descartes, you get to see what information Bruce deemed important, and how that eventually resulted in his own personal philosophy. The same goes with the Jeet Kun Do letter drafts to Black Belt Magazine.  By seeing the changes that were done, you get a glimpse into his thought process.  
    I had also never seen any of Bruce Lee's poetry, and that was a special treat.


    I wouldn't recommend this book to be someone's "My First Bruce Lee book."  I think you have to have a pretty decent grasp of his ideas and philosophies, and probably his life, before you pick up the book.  Also, a general knowledge of the philosophies of Taoism, Plato, Socrates, and Descartes wouldn't hurt either.  Also because many of the pieces are drafts, you do get some repetition of reading material and ideas.  


    I really enjoyed this book.  I've seen the Bruce Lee movies, watched some documentaries, and read some other Bruce Lee books, so I had a pretty good idea of the ideas and philosophies being presented.  I think I was the target audience for this one.  This book lets you see the development of the result that we think of as "Bruce Lee."  As I said, the different drafts of certain papers can get repetetive in their information, but that isn't the point.  The point is how they change.  Look at the how, and try to deduce the why. That's the joy of this book.  As such I'm going to give it 3.5 (out of 5) Ninja Stars.  I really did enjoy the book, but it took me a while to really start to get into it, which could also be my fault as I was expecting a light biography, and this was a denser, more mentally demanding, examination of the process that was Bruce Lee.

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