One of my favorite films is The Big Lebowski. It’s a… crime comedy?… about the misadventures of the titular character: Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski. Nobody calls him by any other name. He’s The Dude, so that’s what you call him. That, or His Dudeness … Duder … or El Duderino, if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing.
The Big Lebowski was a box office flop in 1998, but it is a serious cult classic. It’s brilliant (per the *uzsh* for the Coen brothers). It may be about an LA slacker, but the film is whip-smart. It may be a farce, but it’s a well-made farce. And it stays relevant, because of the transcendence of the humor.
The actors couldn’t have been better. Jeff Bridges as The Dude. Sam Elliott as the memorable-yet-brief Stranger. John Goodman and his handgun as the slightly-unhinged Walter Sobchak. Poor Donny, played by Steve Buscemi, who was out of his element. Julianne Moore with that Viking hat… the Nihilists with their nightmarishly-large scissors… fantastically ridiculous, every one.
But the actors couldn’t have done another thing, too: performed without their lines.
Without the words,Lebowski wouldn’t be Lebowski. The wit, the turn of phrase, the delicately-woven story—none of it would exist without the writing. No writing, no catchphrases like this:
The Stranger: Take it easy, Dude.
The Dude: Oh, yeah!
The Stranger: I know that you will.
The Dude: Yeah, well – the Dude abides.
[Exits with beers in hand]
The Stranger: [to the camera] The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.
The same can be said of writing.
The history of literature is the historical development of writings in prose or poetry that attempt to provide entertainment, enlightenment, or instruction to the reader/listener/observer, as well as the development of the literary techniques used in the communication of these pieces.
It began with the invention of writing, in Bronze Age Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Literature from the Iron Age includes the earliest texts that have been preserved in a manuscript tradition (as opposed to texts that have been recovered by archaeologists), including the Indian Vedas, parts of the Hebrew Bible, and the Avestan Gathas.
The importance of those early works abide in historical and religious ways.
Shakespeare did it in the 16th and 17th centuries. His work persists.
The Coen Brothers have ridden the waves of the writing process many times, prompted by those who surfed before them. They credit Raymond Chandler, the early-1900s British-American novelist and screenwriter, with influencing The Big Lebowski. Joel Coen said, “We wanted to do a Chandler kind of story – how it moves episodically, and deals with the characters trying to unravel a mystery, as well as having a hopelessly complex plot that’s ultimately…”
Well, I won’t spoil the ending if you’ve never seen it. That last word means nothing for this post, but could ruin the movie’s conclusion!
I will say that the inspiration for and the actual process of writing come in different forms. Ideas and views, styles and formats, audiences from the ancient Sumerians to a modern-day film buff… it all has a different look, a different significance, and a different effect on the writer.
But, the desire to tell stories never ceases.
The need to put pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard or voice-to-text is very real, and has driven people to complete masterful works for centuries
The writing process abides.
The writing spirit can abide in you, too—visit my Make Your Story Happen How-To Guide to get started.