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420 Characters

3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  667 Ratings  ·  169 Reviews
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 ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published January 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,403)
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Richard Derus
Nov 30, 2015 Richard Derus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Within this collection of miniature stories, entire worlds take shape—some like our own, some hallucinatory fairylands--populated by heartsick cowboys, random criminals, lovers and drifters. In a dazzling narrative constellation, Beach’s characters contend with the strange and terrible and beautiful in life, and no outcome is certain. Begun as a series of Facebook status updates,420 Charactersmarks a new turn in an acclaimed artist and illustrator’s career,
Nov 11, 2011 Kurt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of poetry or minimalism or Facebook or beauty or life
Recommended to Kurt by: Amazon Vine
This beautiful collection of hyper-minimalist stories is simply stunning. Beach presents himself with a simple challenge - make an impact in a Facebook status update, which means writing 420 characters or fewer - and succeeds in roughly 160 different ways. Each page of this collection is one status update, each standing independently but some tracing faint connections through the volume in a vaguely Spoon River Anthology kind of way. Some are complete stories with a beginning, middle, and end, a ...more
Aug 20, 2015 Mel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books I have loaded into my phone and I read whenever I need a moment of amusement but I don't want to read a whole book. I look at this from time to time and I never read it in order. Brilliant stuff and a great thing to have on hand when you want to read something on your phone that isn't social media but isn't a book either. Good for those tedious times when you have to wait for something and need to kill some time but don't have the time or the focus to get all wrapped u ...more
sara frances
this book was a bit too strange for my tastes but there were some stories that i completely adored. here are two that really stick out to me:

"I rise at 3 A.M. to walk my bladder to the bathroom, then return to the bed and wait for my face and pillow to come to an agreement. I lie on my right, my left, my stomach, my back, as if attempting an even tan, until I find the Goldilocks spot. The only sound is the hum of the planet, and the whistling and chirping of the little birds who live in my nostr
Oct 18, 2015 Kwoomac rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of 169 short stories, none longer than 420 characters. Some seem shorter but I'm not counting anything. I found some stories took my breath away, others left me wanting more. The book also has surreal collages created by the author. Not my thing at all, I always feel like someone's trying too hard.

A few of my favorites:

Today I'm Jimi Hendrix but I don't own a guitar so I set fire to a kitchen chair instead. The crowd roars. My wife refuses to be the drummer, just clucks and stirs t
Adrianne Mathiowetz
I was critical of this book at first; I had just read a book with a similar concept that I had ABSOLUTELY LOVED, and because this book wasn't a carbon copy of that book, it seemed lacking. I didn't think Beach was using his 420 characters carefully enough. I wanted more of a punch in the last sentence of every story; I wanted to feel pummeled and raw by page 20.

Also, obviously, there's a gimmick at play here, and it was initially easy to dismiss it as just that -- gimmicky.

But by about halfway
This is pretty far out there, but in a very good way. Lou Beach is an artist whose work has been featured in many publications as well as on several album covers. He's a surrealist in art, and now in writing--this is his first book of prose. It started (and continues--I just 'friended' him to get his daily stories) as Facebook status's, which are limited to 420 characters (including punctuation and spaces). He makes that little bit of space seem like a vast canvas, creating sometimes lyric, some ...more
Dec 31, 2011 Jasmine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
Since by the time I've gotten home to write this review it's 2012 clearly this is the last book of 2011 which sadly leaves me 24 pages from 49,000 but I suppose that's life.

why don't I like this book? well I wanted to like this book. it's just there are so many great microstories books and this isn't one of them. This is like someone is writing them without understanding the concept of a story. I mean they don't actually beg to be written. I mean a good microstory either feels like it encompass
Apr 26, 2016 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-by-pals
These teensy stories with rad art are like little back massages for your brain.
Beverly J.
ZERO STARS, that's right Zero. This is the worst piece of shit I've encountered in a Long time. These were his updates to a 'social networking' site. They were bizarre, horrible, random and senseless. Not even remotely interesting, no redeeming value at all. Oh, and his "art"? His illustrations? Not my cup of tea either. pffffffft!!!
May 23, 2012 Vin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the concept of this—teeny tiny short stories, originally written as Facebook posts. I'm very jealous that I didn't come up with that idea myself. But I'm glad someone did (& apparently there are others). Some of these were brilliant, some were fun, and some lost me. But all in all a quick laugh & a page turner. With artwork.
Jan 25, 2012 Claire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting idea and a good mix. Some of the brief stories broke my heart and others made me smirk.
Pamela Huxtable
Mar 11, 2013 Pamela Huxtable rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: microfiction
420 Characters by Lou Beach started out as an experiment of sorts. Beach originally posted his micro stories as Facebook posts, which were limited to 420 characters per post. Beach then put them together in this book, along with collages he created.

This is the first time I have read this type of "micro fiction," but I have a feeling it won't be my last. With Twitter postings and Facebook statuses standing in for journalism these days, is it any surprise that authors of fiction would give the mic
Jaime Boler
Jan 13, 2012 Jaime Boler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, The Power of Social Media

Writers increasingly turn to Twitter and Facebook to share their stories. And sometimes they strike gold. In 2009, Justin Halpern, semi-employed and living back home, used Twitter to post in 140 character increments the hilarious and potty-mouth things that came out of his father’s mouth. Shit My Dad Says went on to be a bestseller and a TV show starring William Shatner.

Author Matt Stewart also used Twitter. This Yale University graduate had written a book set in San
Oct 21, 2012 Ashish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I had mixed feelings about this one. It is obviously gimmicky - and some of the 'stories' are obviously weak with not enough space for exposition of the ideas explored.

On the other hand, some told me more about the characters than some full length novels have done. Here is my favorite one:

'HER FEROCITY left him indisposed to fight back and finally to even listen. She squinted, eyed him like a pot of boiling water watches a raw egg. She filled the salt shaker. "What is the matter, Jerome?"

This o
Dec 19, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories-essays
There's a professor of creative writing at the school where I got my master's degree who is kind of obsessed with flash fiction. I wasn't a creative writing student, so I never had any classes with him, but I heard tell. His argument was that this sort of quickie writing help get the juices flowing, helps you get ideas out on paper so they can be developed later. Maybe there's some truth to that, but I always kind of felt the products of these exercises were largely pretty pathetic. I know that ...more
Jan 08, 2012 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book of microstories, each 420 characters or less. Many of them are excellent and some quite dark. Here's an example:

The train pulls into Jawbone at 1:07. I'm on the platform waiting for you but the only passengers off the car are three old farmers. I stand there for a while, look around, hoping you'll appear out of the heat. The engine chugs off into the dust and I retreat to the Red Dog, drink until I'm numb, then stumble past the livery barn to lie down on the tracks. I put my ear t
Jeff Scott
420 Characters is kind of a book of short stories, but really more like a book of prose. Lou Beach has been experimenting with short stories via Facebook status update, whereas, you only have 420 characters to write with. The result is a bunch of teaser stories. Many hint at something very ominous or perhaps some past history and it is enough to want more of the story. It reminds me a great deal of On A Winter’s Night a Traveler even though there is more of the story that is fleshed out, each ch ...more
Jan 02, 2012 Shannon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm very intrigued by micro-short stories and even more so by the affect that social networking has on our storytelling capabilities. What Beach does here, construct stories using the once-limited 420 characters Facebook status, is interesting. There is quite a mix of funny, morbid, grotesque, shocking, sad and weird stories in this collection. But perhaps the abundance of stories was this collection's biggest draw back. instead of being able to focus on a few tiny stories, and imagine what has ...more
Lissa Adamson
Jul 09, 2016 Lissa Adamson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lissa by: Abigail Monhollen
I enjoyed this book way more in the beginning half than the end; as it became increasingly redundant in both tempo and tale - there were less and less surprises, and the monotony in the staccato voice of the author was a bit much to take.
K's Bognoter
Det var umuligt for mig at modstå fristelsen til at tage denne bog i hænderne, som den lå der på et af udstillingsbordene i newyorkerboghandelen The Strand. Lou Beach’s 420 characters er ualmindelig lækker i udførelsen: Rødt lærredsbind med guldtryk og et halvt afskåret smudsbind præget af nogle af forfatterens egne surrealistiske illustrationer, der også går igen inde i bogen i flotte farvetryk på glittet papir.

Men ak, historierne i bogen står desværre ikke distancen og lever slet ikke op til d
Robin Bigda
420 Characters Cannot Describe the weirdness in this novel.

"The stories you are about to encounter were written as status updates on a large social networking site. There updates were limited to 420 characters, including letters, spaces, and punctuation. The author hopes you enjoy them."

The author's note is what pulled me into this novel. The wacky, absurd and crazy pictures are what kept me turning the digital pages. The fact that audio was built into the Nook book version of this novel kept my
Linda Lipko
Some stories are thought provoking, some scary, some lyrical and others mystical, all are highly creative.

If only I had this book years ago when I sat through a creative writing course listening to the prof. tell the class to write a story about the fly, the fly, the fly on the wall.

I could have used Lou Beach as a reference regarding how the heck to compose an elusive thought and make it shine. (
Jason Kirk
Feb 02, 2014 Jason Kirk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
420 Characters is a collection of paragraph-length stories that's by turns fantastical, cheeky, and tender. Each story would make a better greeting card than most of what's out there, and Beach -- an illustrator by trade -- includes a handful of illustrations to accompany the stories.

I guess this is what's call micro-fiction these days, but regardless, I like it. Here's a favorite, chosen from many for no better reason than that it features a hometown hero...

Aug 10, 2015 Nikolay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, stories
I loved the concept of mega-short stories and there were some great ones. Often not many words are needed to transport you to a place where you feel comfortable and familiar. Expected more punchlines, though.
naomi cole
May 23, 2016 naomi cole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short little snippets of amusing literature for those seldom moments to spare or those often needed additions + sparks of creativity throughout the day. Some stories humorous, some vulgar, some heart-wrenching or gut-turning or all-around, straight up strange. Includes as well a handful of pages interspersed throughout that showcase surreal illustrations by Beach himself. I've had this book for quite some time and still am sure that I haven't gotten to them all; I like having these quick little ...more
Feb 01, 2015 Ali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is shattering. True to the hyper minimalism, Beach manages to capture the various nuances that define the human environment and experience. Each piece leaves the reader either gorged or wondering after an unstated end.

My advice:

Read this book slowly. Savor the moments presented. Unfurl each story's fabric and bed deep.

Beach has wrapped humanity in fragments digestible to an ever moving world. His stories are literary sand: plentiful, oddly connected, individual in their own state.

Adalira Morningstar
What the fuck did I just read?
Oct 27, 2011 Alena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won a copy of this book through First Reads.
4.5 stars
Despite the fact that this entire book is based on a gimmick (all entries are originally the author's Facebook posts), I just loved it. These very short stories are delightful -- sometimes wickedly funny, other times spot-on sober.
Beach is a little twisted, which appeals to me. My jaw dropped at a few of the stories for sure. I certainly stopped often to reread and dissect. But mostly, I was struck by the entries' poetic natures. They are, a
May 31, 2012 Greg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intellectually I think the concept behind this book is great. Fiction posted to a social network regularly and within the boundaries provided by that medium. I get excited for any creative use of such services, especially when it encourages creativity and reading. But trying to take them all in, one after another, in a bound and printed format can be a bit overwhelming.

My complaints are primarily just less intense versions of the ones I had about the book Not Quite What I Was Planning. In that
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“Kiss me a question, ask me again with your eyes and I'll answer with my fingers, trailing reasons down your spine. There's a theory behind your knees and a postulate in that sweet spot on your neck, and I'll respond to your query with a smooch and a holler, roll you up against the sink and wash your hair, make love till the plates fall off the shelf” 3 likes
“They are closing the mine in two weeks, they say. Six days a week bumping down in the gondola, pecking out the rocks and hauling them back up, doing it again the next day for twenty-seven years, one cave-in, three thin raises, and a failed strike. Where am I going to go every day, what am I going to do with all that sunshine?” 2 likes
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