Karl is a lonely would-be writer who has just had a near-death experience and is now fixated on the last person he saw before blacking out. That person would be Paul, a frustrated and equally alienated former copy editor whom Karl believes to be his exact double. After an exchange of comically polite notes, the two arrange to meet. It does not exactly go well, but Paul does agree to look over Karl's twenty-thousand-page manuscript, entitled "A Book about How Much I Hate Myself." After several months pass without any feedback, Karl discovers other people promoting a book curiously like his own on the television. Determined to stop these plagiarists, Karl demands that Paul drive him to Portland so he can intercept them on their book tour.