“He had thoughts of California, of driving there, and doing something. Driving around, looking at stuff. He’d do things. He had an image of himself and his toy poodle in Alaska, in a log cabin, fighting back hordes of bears with a peashooter. Taming the bears. Setting up a bear circus…”

— Tao Lin, Today The Sky is Blue and White with Bright Blue Spots and a Small Pale Moon and I Will Destroy Our Relationship Today


“Last night, man, I was so drunk, I was calling Morocco, man. Calling, trying to get to the Hotel Hilton at Tangiers in Casablanca, man. That’s, I mean, that’s, that’s pathetic, man! Is that what you wanna do with your life? Suck down peppermint schnapps and try to call Morocco at two in the morning? That’s senseless! But that’s what happens, man.”

— Mark Borchardt, American Movie


You will need a few extra seconds to soak in every line, to let your brain get a little pruny in the satirical sauna of this pairing. Lin offers his story collection for free on the Bear Parade site. Its open structure creates a choose-your-own-adventure, raw feel just like the pixelated, candid scenes of Chris Smith’s American Movie.

This book and movie combo demands a kind of philosophical rubbernecking toward fender-bender-esque lives. You desperately want to know these people, not so much as friends but as back-pocket talismans or mascots for the team-of-one that is you.

The pairing also explores:

  • Perpetual and painstakingly earnest adolescence
  • Talking about doing things more than doing them
  • Both the ongoing struggle and surprising ease of relating to people
  • Deep layers of embarrassment
  • Poetic stagnation
  • Giving into the fantasy that glory will come from creation
  • Surprisingly invested family members
  • Consequences of overthinking

With characters so un-self-aware, at first, they’ll make you feel better about yourself. But then you become awestruck by them because they’re so shockingly genuine. They are attentive in a way the rest of us never could be. So who’s the joke really on? Read and watch and let me know what you think.