The Coen Brothers’ 1998 film The Big Lebowski has spawned countless imitators, a travelling festival, an internet-based religion and even academic symposia. This latest addition to the Lebowski industry claims to be an attempt to understand the enduring popularity of a film that has enjoyed huge cult success.
It is difficult to envisage the book’s target audience. Diehard Lebowski fans, by the authors’ own admission, like to interact with the film, quoting lines and attending conventions, and this does not translate to the page. For readers with only a passing interest in the film, the in-jokes and asides would quickly become wearing. Film buffs would find little of substance, given the directors’ refusal to participate.
With a little wit, it might have been possible to transcend these limitations. Sadly, instead of any genuine originality, there is a quiz to determine how “dude-like” the reader is, and a recipe for the perfect White Russian. Despite the many interviews with people who participated in the film, there is a Coen Brothers-sized hole at the heart of the book, and no amount of soundbites from celebrity fans or poor-quality photographs of the Lebowski Fest can compensate.