If fan-organized fests and nudge-nudge catchwords are the oral law of 'The Big Lebowski' cult, then 'I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski' is the Talmud.

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 256 pages; $16.95 When I was in college, there was a repertoire movie house in Boston that would screen The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday night at midnight. Fans of the cult musical would bring props, repeat the dialogue verbatim and add timely comments, which grew more elaborate with each viewing. Thirty years later, fans of Joel and Ethan Coen's major cult opus The Big Lebowski would shudder at being compared to the longing-to-belong nerds who wore eyeliner and glossy red lipstick and threw toast at the screen. But let's face it: The 1998 Wizard of Oz-like ode to slacker honor and California dreaming, which helped make "Shabbos" observance an American pop cultural touchstone, has spawned an equally obsessive bunch of faithful nerdy followers. They also know every line of dialogue and consider the film's main protagonist, Dude, played by Jeff Bridges, to be a Zen-like philosopher and White Russian-induced master of "what have you" tranquility. In 2002, four of the more terminally possessed fans decided to let their freak flags fly by launching the First Annual Lebowski Fest (redundancy intentional). Their primary goal? To hobnob with fellow "achievers" as they are called, recall their favorite scenes, dress as their favorite characters, drink White Russians, bowl a few strings (the preferred activity of most of the movie's characters) and generally celebrate all things Lebowski, preferably in a bathrobe. The achievers can be anywhere, just like doctors and accountants used to trade in their day clothes for tie-dye and follow The Grateful Dead around, except Lebowski giveaways are almost always verbal. Just like one might say "get outta here" in a friendly conversation, an achiever will offer, "Shut the **** up, Donny," a phrase that John Goodman yells repeatedly at Steve Buscemi during the course of the film. Or sit at a bar and test your fellow patron next to you with: "Careful, man, there's a beverage here." If he's an achiever, you've made a friend for life. These inside jokes are like a secret brotherhood, code words which gain you entrance to the club. So, if the festivals and nudge-nudge catchwords are the oral law of the world of Lebowski, then I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski is the Talmud, containing all the necessary Gemara to explain the nuances. The book's authors are white, middle class and in their 30s - Bill Green is a graphic designer, Ben Peskoe a Web developer, Will Russell a magician and Scott Shuffitt an artist. They seem perfectly normal, but their obvious fixation with every minute detail of the film, its origins, and its place in daily culture could be worrisome if they didn't have the outlets of the festivals, and now this book, to express what evidently needs to be expressed. Don't expect a deep philosophical analysis of why The Big Lebowski has touched such a chord among its cult over the last decade, though. The fact that it was written by four hard-core fans ensures that I'm a Lebowski is an uncritical celebration of all that is Lebowski (they call it the "greatest film of all time, with apologies to Citizen Kane"). If you can accept that premise, then the book (part guidebook, part coffee-table tome, part National Lampoon) is a fun-filled read full of irreverent facts and interviews with some of the key actors, the real-life people upon whom the characters are based and some bona-fide achievers. The Coen brothers are the elusive Holy Grail of the book, refusing to be interviewed or be part of any of the Lebowski fests the quartet has sponsored. Instead, the authors focus on the supporting cast and the bit players who have contributed to making the film such an addictive oddity. Delightful interviews with costars John Goodman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, as well as Tara Reid, who plays Bunny Lebowski (famous for a line that can't be repeated here), and Jesse Flanagan, who plays Little Larry Sellers ("Where's the money, you little brat?"), reveal the true affection the actors have for the film. Even more insightful are the chapters on the saucy real-life character whom the Coen brothers drew the script from, including Jeff "the Dude" Dowd and "Big" Lew Abernathy, the inspiration for Goodman's Vietnam vet Walter Sobchak, the burly, foul-mouthed Shabbat-observing Jew by choice. Their shaggy-dog stories are as riveting and entertaining as the movie itself. Some parts of the book are just plain silly - like the "How Dude are you?" quiz and tips on "how to Dudify your home." And other chapters, like the in-depth "by your side" guide to watching the film, makes you wish the authors would acquire an outside interest. But just as easily, other sections like the interviews with some handpicked achievers will repeatedly have you guffawing and reaching for the DVD of the film to screen the scenes they're reminiscing about. The authors' passion for the accoutrements of The Big Lebowski infuses the book with a love that only amateur hobbyists can bring to a project - or what Bridges calls in the book's foreword the Dude's "certain type of wisdom… the wisdom that gives you the ability to make your hair and fingernails grow, your heart beat..." If you've never seen The Big Lebowski, or even more so, if you've seen it and said "What?" then this book's not for you. But if you see a little of yourself in Dude or Walter, or you just happen to hate the Eagles, then I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski abides.