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It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988)

| Drama
A nameless young character goes into travels to the country, meeting some acquaintances and strangers as well, having banal conversations, dedicating his existence into daily mundane ... See full summary »





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Cast overview:
James Goodwin
Dan Kratochvil ...
(as Daniel Kratochvil)
Linda Finney
Tracy Crabtree
Linda Levine
Lisa Schiebold
Erin McAfee
D. Montgomery
Scott Van Horn
Daniel Johnston
Tammy Gomez
Keith McCormack


A nameless young character goes into travels to the country, meeting some acquaintances and strangers as well, having banal conversations, dedicating his existence into daily mundane activities. Richard Linklater presents an unconventional narrative, barely composed of dialogue and consisting in observing life and actions. Written by Rodrigo Amaro

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Box Office


$3,000 (estimated)

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Technical Specs

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film is featured on second disc of the Slacker (1991) DVD released in 2004 by the Criterion Collection. See more »

Crazy Credits

Instead of listing the names of several family members featured in the film, it instead reads "Various Family" during the end credits. See more »


Features Gertrud (1964) See more »

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User Reviews

a Linklater travelogue where it's about alienation and meandering around; better on a second viewing
8 July 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There were moments watching this narrative experiment- the first of many for Richard Linklater- where it comes about as close to being totally mundane as can be possible with the camera. It probably wasn't a problem for him to get his shots, as it looked as if he was making his own personal 'home movie' with him either on the train or in stations or just bumming around Austin, Texas. In that sense it's almost close to being a documentary even though, according to Linklater, it's not really quite himself on screen even as it is himself. In real life he isn't this mundane and sort of drift-less, however does admit that the feelings are in him, and were in him then, and it's on a second viewing that a sort of pattern emerges from what looks like bare-bones storytelling. Unlike Jarmusch's Permanent Vacation, it doesn't necessarily try to relate some sort of 'character' in the sense that it's something created by the actor, and then surrounded in the typical indie-movie easy-going scenes. Here, Linklater is showing how such everyday things like traveling on a train, walking through a town, getting stopped by someone to see your t-shirt, watching TV, watching movies, reading, doing laundry, doing dishes, reading a Kafka quote, driving, listening to music, so on and so forth, can have some kind of interest in the initial disinterest in seeing this.

On the one hand the narrative is lax, and unlike Slacker there isn't even the framework of a bunch of characters in a small town. But on the other hand out of all of these seemingly random shots of a guy going through the motions in life, dealing without a job, the 'whatever' attitude of hanging out with friends or a girl, taking care of a car, becomes a narrative itself. It's experimental and as Linklater also has said certainly not for a large audience to see (and many haven't until the DVD of Slacker was released with this film included), but the visual language is rich in its detachment, and at the least is a curious effort that doesn't just keep the audience on a sort of line away from typical emotional involvement but is about the same thing. Far from being any great success, but for a real "student" effort (self-taught student) you could get much worse. Watch for a Sterling Hayden tribute in one scene and a sense of dissatisfaction with 80s TV.

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