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2. ‘A MILLION BEARS’ by Austin Islam


spencer madsen’s ‘a million bears’ was my first ‘alt lit’ book, i think. i remember also reading ‘richard yates’ by tao lin, ‘selected unpublished blog posts…’ by megan boyle, and ‘crunk juice’ by steve roggenbuck around the same time that i read ‘a million bears’, but i think this book made the strongest impression on me.

at the time i was in a very depressed state, grappling with the uncomfortable void that comes after the dissolution of a relationship that lasted ~5 years. i dug the book’s dedication:
"to all my ex-girlfriends who made my poetry possible"

i was initially drawn in by the somewhat ‘emo’ aesthetic, by the disappointment and longing that spencer enunciated regarding failed romantic relationships. that aspect of the book really ‘got’ me.  

in this book, spencer alternates between list-style poems, sort of stream-of-consciousness poems, collections of his own tweets, existentialist crisis poems, references to his feelings about certain girls, ‘lit celebs’, ‘real celebs’, loose commentary on capitalism and sociopolitical issues, love and the aftermath of it. he peppers the book with humorous tweets by kanye west and 50 cent.

i assumed spencer used kanye and 50’s tweets specifically for their humor (as a foil to his ‘sad’ writing), but also in loose allusion to the kanye/50 faceoff in which 50 cent said that if kanye’s album outsold his (after they dropped on the same day), 50 would quit the rap game. this marriage of ‘emo’ and ‘rap game’ sensibility made me almost giddy in my amusement. i felt a strong connection to the persona that spencer created in the book.

spencer writes about being ‘very unvegan lately’, about how many breakups it took to finally break up a relationship, vague descriptions of living in new york city, he says he felt deja vu during the entirety of the joaquin phoenix documentary, he discusses extensively his bored frustration with college life, he makes funny references to betty white, james franco, and unironically kissing his own bicep.

some of my favorite lines:

"walk in nyc and think ‘i could probably fall in love with her’ every few seconds"

"my cat is looking at me with discernible existential despair, a consequence of his lack of decisiveness career-wise"

"one thing that bothers me is spiritual people
because they dont see that everything is random/bad

birds that are seagulls are assholes
because have you ever ate at a beach” 

most of the things that spencer wrote about in this book were very relatable to me at the time i first read them. i felt very excited that a person my age wrote things that were similar to things that i had thought, but wrote them in a funny way and made the text look cool and got them printed in a book that didn’t have staples down the middle of it. i feel like spencer has been focusing on other things besides publishing his own poetry lately but i look forward to reading more things written by him.


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  4. spencermadsen reblogged this from thingsbyotherpeople and added:
    a very nice thing austin islam wrote about a million bears (2010)
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