Saturday, December 01, 2007

Review: Bums Write What Achievers Read

This review has been edited since it was first posted on Saturday, to correct inconsistencies, and to make it all more clear. Sorry if you slogged through the first. --ST

I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski, Life, "The Big Lebowski," and What Have You.

Great thing about being sick over the past week was the chance to catch up on some reading. While The Emergence of a Free Press was a little too dense for my spinning head, I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski, Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You was just the thing.

If “Mark it 8, Dude” does not make you immediately scream, “Over the line!” If the mention of the word pornography or the sight of anything vaguely pornographic, does not make you say, “The story is ridiculous,” and if by now you are not thinking, “I could go for a caucasian,” then this review, and most likely the book, is not for you. (A warning to tender readers—the language may become R-rated.)

The Dude.

This is a book for Achievers. Those of us who celebrate the life of El Duderino, if you’re not into that whole brevity thing, love this sort of book.

The bums who wrote it, Bill Green, Ben Peskoe, Will Russell, and Scott Shuffitt, interviewed actors from The Dude in all his Dudeness, Jeff Bridges, to Walter Sobchak’s John Goodman. They interviewed The Jesus of John Tuturo and even interviewed Jack Kehler, who plays Marty the Dancing Landlord as well as musician Jimmie Dale Gilmore who plays Smokey. No Coens and no Steve Buescemi were interviewed to make this book.

They don’t end the interviews there; it’s these bums' lot in life to interview people who inspired the movie—this really ties the book together. They spoke to Jeff “The Dude” Dowd, Peter Exline (whose rug really tied the room together), to “Big” Lew Abernathy, all who tell the stories—including the stolen car and homework in a plastic bag—that made the movie what it is.

I had a little trouble with some of the interviews as often the bums went back to the same two or three questions for every person—that works great in focus groups and job interviews (you don’t look for a job like that, do you?), but seemed too formulaic in the book when I wanted more follow-up questions to what the actors and others had said.

Still, they do a very nice job explaining how they think the movie became a cult classic (with references!), and especially giving us Chapter 7’s Reference Materials including the Parlance of Our Times and scouting the locations. Achievers will love reading (i.e. recalling from memory) the best lines of the flick, or arguing with the writers for missing the best.

The Jesus.

Where the plane flies into the goddamn mountain for this book is in photo reproduction. There’s a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what have yous, to making even black and white photos look good in print, and these, too often, look mushy and washed-out. Can I be frank with you Dude? It looks like they paused the DVD, shot a photo of their TV screen with a digital camera and then pasted a copy-paper print onto their book.

Chapter 1, a nice introduction to the idea of Lebowski worship, did little for me, but that might be the very un-Dude academic in me that just wants the information about how to interpret or understand the Dude in a greater cultural context. The interviews and other background material do that rather nicely, even giving the titles to papers that have been presented at Lebowski Fest.

[Along those lines, I was surprised that none dealt with the idea that “The Dude Abides” is a very Taoist statement, not Zen. Everyone brings up Zen, but I'm telling you Dude, Zen is not the issue. The issue is Taoism. That’s the topic of the paper I’ll be presenting at my first Lebowski Fest.]

Add this book to the holiday list of the Achiever you love most. Now, Shut the fuck up, Donny.

The Book.

I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski, Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You
Paper, $16.95, 239 pages
By: Bill Green, Ben Peskoe, Will Russell, and Scott Shuffitt
Forward by: Jeff Bridges (yeah, the Dude can really write, man—well, him and six other guys)

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