WWDD: What Would the Dude Do?

Author and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Cathleen Falsani is writing a book that explores the movies of Minnesota natives Joel and Ethan Coen from a spiritual perspective. The book's title is a nod to her favorite Coen brothers movie, "The Big Lebowski." The book will be called "The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers."

Set for release next spring, it's the latest book in the "Gospel According to" series, which analyzes the faith/spiritual aspects of pop culture. Earlier books, written by a variety of authors, include ones on Disney movies, Oprah Winfrey and the Simpsons (Homer and Marge, not Jessica and Ashlee).

Falsani has been researching her book since "Blood Simple" came out 25 years ago. She just didn't know it.

"I'm a huge fan of the Coen brothers," she said. "I've seen all their movies multiple times. I was putting the finishing touches on my new book [the recently released "Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace") when the publisher said, 'Have you ever thought of doing anything on the Coen brothers?' I called my agent, prepared a proposal and the publisher bought it the next week."

The Coens have never revealed much about themselves, and this project is no exception. They declined to be interviewed, which, given their penchant for smart-alecky humor -- they still have many people believing that "Fargo" was based on a true story -- wasn't all bad from Falsani's perspective.

"They've said very little over the years about themselves that can be taken seriously," she said. "They've been humorously disingenuous about the depth of their films."

She thinks that there is a spiritual element in all of their movies, "although, I must admit, I'm struggling a bit with their newest one," the spy spoof "Burn After Reading." "Their movies raise a lot of existential questions, although there rarely are any answers given. That's just not their thing."

A step in the right direction

If Polly Letofsky could spare five years to walk 14,124 miles promoting breast cancer awareness and raising money for research, the least we could do is free up an evening to honor her.

On Aug. 1, 1999, Letofsky set off on foot from her home in Vail, Colo., a journey that eventually took her through 22 countries. The trip is the subject of a documentary, "Polly's Global Walk," that will debut next week in Minneapolis as a fundraiser for the Mayo Clinic and Susan G. Komen for the Cure Minnesota.

Why debut the film here? This is where she originally came up with the idea for the marathon hike. Letofsky is the daughter of the late Irv Letofsky, who helped Dudley Riggs launch the Brave New Workshop and later became an editor at the Star Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

The Letofskys were living in Minneapolis when 12-year-old Polly became fascinated by the story of David Kunst, a Minnesotan who in 1974 became the first person to circumnavigate the world on foot to raise money for UNICEF. Fast-forward 25 years. With several friends and relatives having breast cancer, Letofsky decided to follow in Kunst's footsteps. Her brother, P.J., documented it all on film.

The movie will be shown at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Parkway Theater, 4814 Chicago Av. S., Minneapolis. The screening will be preceded by a silent auction at 5:30 p.m. and followed by a Q&A session with Polly and P.J. Letofsky. Admission is $45. Tickets are available at the theater or online at www.brownpapertickets. com/event/43243.

A well-deserved thank you

Next week is "hug a chaplain week." OK, that's not its official designation; it's Pastoral Care Week. But it should be called Hug a Chaplain Week. The week salutes the "clergy, counselors, educators and providers" who work in hospitals, hospices and care centers. It was started in 1983 by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, went nondenominational two years later and in 1995 dropped the "national" designation so the week could be celebrated worldwide.

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392