I confess, I’m kind of new to Bruce Lee. That’s not to say I haven’t heard of him, it’s just that I don’t know a whole lot about him. I’ve seen a couple of his movies, which I liked. And, I grew up in Seattle where he also lived, and there was always buzz.
So when I was offered a copy of The Treasures of Bruce Lee for possible review, I indulged my curiosity and accepted. But, I quickly found that this isn’t the sort of book you just read – it’s one you also experience.
As you open the cover, you get the first surprise – a large pouch, attached to the inside cover, printed with photos of Lee, into which is tucked a Chinese-language poster of his film, The Big Boss. There’s also a reproduction of one of his hand-drawn bookmarks – which of course could come in handy if you don’t read the book in one session).
The 19 chapters, each deal with a different topic or period in Lee’s life, or devoted to individual films. Examples include: Early Years; Hong Kong Movies; Fitness Training Regime & Diet; Jun Fan Gung Fu; On Screen in America; The Philosophy of Bruce Lee; The Big Boss; Fist of Fury; Enter the Dragon.
This book was written and curated by Bruce Lee expert Paul Bowman. This is his third book about Lee, and it shows in his knowledgeable writing and care for his subject. Lee’s daughter Shannon contributed the foreword.
There’s a real treasury of photos here. There are ones of Bruce’s family and childhood, of him training in classes in Seattle, early Hollywood appearances, training for films, movie stills. There’s a full-page photo of Lee’s hand-annotated copy of The Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Some photos span two full pages.
Included is a film lobby card for The Big Boss, a Karate tournament poster, letters to and from Lee, a poster for Enter the Dragon, a sticker sheet, other posters and film memorabilia. I won’t tell you every piece that’s included, so as not to ruin the joy of discovery for you, which is part of the fun.
The layout and composition of the book – a combination of text, photos of Lee, photos of ephemera (magazine & newspaper clippings for example), and the included posters, letters, postcards, film memorabilia and other goodies – draws you into its world and gives you a picture of Lee from multiple sides.
My only criticism of the book is not for the content – which is stellar – but for the presentation of text. For my middle-aged glasses-wearing eyes, the light-weight, smallish black text on grey background was a little hard to read, as was the even smaller font used for the photo captions. If you’re young or have sharp eyes, you’ll be fine.
If you know a lot about Bruce Lee, The Treasures of Bruce Lee will provide you with a good read, a plethora of great pictures, and some fun extra goodies. But it’s good for the uninitiated, too – I found it to be a very enjoyable overview of his work whic has inspired me to check out more of his films and learn more.