SHORT STORIES BY LOU BEACH
FROM HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT
LONGLISTED FOR THE FRANK O’CONNOR
INTERNATIONAL SHORT STORY AWARD 2012
Alternately surreal, funny, ominous, and lyrical, Lou Beach’s 420 Characters offers an experience as dazzling as any in contemporary fiction. Revealing worlds of meaning in single paragraphs, these crystalline miniature stories began as Facebook status updates, and mark a new turn in an acclaimed artist and illustrator’s career. 420 Characters features original collages by the author.
PRAISE & REVIEWS
The New York Times Book Review
By turns cheeky and cherubic, these 420-character shorts from the author’s Facebook page encapsulate in pithy form entire plotlines or character studies. Beach injects these tidy depictions with a similar boundless, mischievous imagination. Sly, surprising, playful, puzzling-and great fun.
Celebrated illustrator Beach…turns his uncommon sensibilities to the written word, composing a small fortune in vignettes that originally appeared as Facebook updates. An adroit experiment that marries linguistic restraint to literary cool.
[It] takes the reader only a few pages to realize that Beach’s book is more than simple experimentation. The language is sharp and driven by a droll wit that attracts and repels, with results both endearing and estranging. Given Beach’s background as an illustrator, it should come as no surprise that many of these pieces have an almost cinematic immediacy to them, and the unexpected, almost surrealistic twists make this a sharp and wonderfully funny debut. Readers of short fiction will love this one.
“It says ‘shit,'” observes my six-year-old, spotting Jonathan Lethem’s cover blurb: “Holy sh*t! These are great!” And they are. Rendered as Facebook updates in 420 characters or less, these thought-provoking vignettes from illustrator Lou Beach are funny, poetic, touching, sexy, twisted-scene-and-character sketches replete with bumpkins, criminals, angry teens, truckers, boozers, bimbos, animals, and sentient objects. Best savored one or two a day, like a New Yorker cartoon calendar.
Lou Beach writes short stories in 420 characters, and they are bizarre and awesome. Beach’s site includes audio of his stories being read by Dave Alvin (yes!), Ian McShane, and Jeff Bridges (thus marking the first time the Big Lebowski star has been involved with anything called “420”).
Edgy and funny, smart, dark and thought-provoking. Beach’s short-short stories reveal worlds of meaning in single paragraphs. While perhaps not for everyone, they are definitely an entertaining read and are accompanied by collages by the author.
The collection covers storms, cowboys, hound dogs, small town girls, wet hammers, stolen Buicks, and much more. This is one of the most entertaining books to read aloud that I’ve encountered in some time. Beach is a wonderful and evocative word smith.
I give this a totally subjective 5 stars because I liked it that much.