I confess: I have not seen The Big Lebowski. It’s always been one of those things I say I’ll get around to one of these days: I like the other Coen Brothers movies I’ve seen, I know a lot of Coen fans hold Lebowski in high esteem, that it has cult following. I think I’ll probably be watching it tonight, though; one of the review books that came in the mail yesterday was The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies (Indiana University Press), and it’s just fantastic. Some of the essay titles: “The Really Big Sleep: Jeffrey Lebowski as the Second Coming of Rip Van Winkle”; “Dudespeak: Or, How to Bowl like a Pornstar”; “Metonymic Hats and Metaphoric Tumbleweeds: Noir Literary Aesthetics in Miller’s Crossing and The Big Lebowski”; “The Big Lebowski and Paul de Man: Historicizing Irony and Ironizing Historicism”; “Holding Out Hope for the Creedence: Music and the Search for the Real Thing in The Big Lebowski”, which is the first essay I read (Creedence? sign me up)… and the list goes on, 21 essays in all, ranging from stridently academic to …well, less stridently academic.
What they all share is a serious appreciation for the movie, while avoiding “arid analysis” – in other words, it’s not just a book to be passed around among film studies majors. It manages to be deeply smart and serious about its ideas without become stuffy and impenetrable. It’s also not one of those hokey knock-off, cash-in books that you see trying to jump on the coattails. If you’re holiday shopping, this should definitely make the cut.