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July 17, 2007

What Have You – New Dude book abides

I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski: I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What-Have-You By Bill Green, Ben Peskoe, Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt. Bloomsbury Press; 256 pgs., .95.The foreword by Jeff Bridges is a big bonus here, but the real guts of this whole odyssey lives in the words of one Jeff Dowd. Dowd, for those who aren’t Achievers, is the real life basis for Bridges’ character in the Coen Brothers’ classic noir comedy, “The Big Lebowski.” “Achievers,” for those of you who aren’t, are those crazies single-mindedly devoted to the cult of “The Big Lebowski.” Now there is an official guidebook to the Lebowski Universe, a veritable Koran of all things Dude. It’s mandatory reading whether sitting on the can or between frames at the local bowling alley. The Lebowski juggernaut shows no signs of slowing. The local boys who’ve turned it into a bona fide cult phenomenon have done well; today, fans cross oceans and continents to attend the yearly festival, held this weekend in Louisville.These brainiacs have lovingly crafted a primer for novice and adept alike. In it are interviews with nearly every member of the cast, silly puzzles and games, poster art, behind-the-scenes storytelling, reminiscences of the real people upon whom the characters were based and a full rundown of each location where scenes were filmed. There are more inside jokes and secret jargon that can be found at an average convention of proctology supply salesmen. Notably missing is any commentary from the Coen Brothers themselves. Their lone words of consultation: “I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski: I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What-Have-You By Bill Green, Ben Peskoe, Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt. Bloomsbury Press; 256 pgs., .95. have neither our blessing nor our curse.” As is to be expected, the book’s charms are tucked away in unlikely corners. “How Dude Are You?” and “How To Dudify Your Office Space” set an appropriately irreverent tone. What follows is both silly and endearing, both idiotic and profound (assuming you’ve got a Caucasian or two in ya). There is the dogma of “Duderonomy” and the kids’ diversion (though, in a way, all of this is for kids) of “Dude Lib.” How about this nugget from Julianne Moore: “I think we all know people like the Dude, or have known people like the Dude in our lives, this whole idea that the Dude abides. He’s always there, always doing his thing. There is something about him that is straightforward and honest, and he is who he is.”founding dudes: Photo by Sam Matzek The Lebowski Fest founding dudes and authors: Scott Shuffitt and Will Russell with the “Dude Mobile” at Executive Bowl.Perhaps this, at long last, is the secret of how a tiny film cult, well, abides.There’s a good deal of self-congratulatory backslapping as well, mainly in the sections about organizing the festival and prodding the film up the steep slope to cult worship. That is all to be expected and, in many ways, is justified. Not many folks, after all, can create festivals out of little more than thin air and fanaticism. The book is, of course, fluffy, as weightless as a bowl of whipped cream, a comic strip or a knock-knock joke. Still, it shows that the Cult of the Dude does, indeed, abide, and it’s a valuable addition to the library of any self-respecting, literate Achiever. Read it at your leisure, start anywhere or just skim. Above all, take ’er easy. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com