Adrianne Mathiowetz's Reviews > 420 Characters

420 Characters by Lou Beach
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's review
Jan 27, 2012

really liked it
Read in January, 2012

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 through I was hooked. These are less "sudden fiction" and more "tiny fiction." There isn't necessarily a huge revelation in each story, but it is a complete story, or a complete moment, in 420 spaces. A whole world may be opened up to you on a single page: implications and questions and blanks your mind can't help but fill in. They can be like provocative photographs, where you could sit and look at them and reimagine the context a few different times, show it to a friend, go "huh." They can be like little daydreams. They can make you wish you were there.

Some of the stories have that McSweeney's quirk to them, which I like to think my generation both invented and beat to death, and so when we see it now it's kind of like a zombie horse dragging its sad, stitched up hooves through the now abandoned, candy-littered streets where just hours ago there was a parade -- quirk everyone, quirk! Be weird and also kind of cute, make a failed attempt at simultaneously disturbing us! -- the hen who has nightmares about eating Peeps, the woman who was shot by a monkey in the jungle , the bird who lives under your hat in Brooklyn (man quirk is all about animals huh?) but really, very few of them are like this. And maybe they have their place.

One of my favorites:

I wet my lips with the tip of my tongue, leave it protruding for a beat, reel it back in. Is she watching? She must know I do it for her. Is she watching? I sit up straight, order whiskey, no rocks. Is she watching? I laugh, make a joke. Is she watching? I walk to the men's room, saunter. Is she watching? I return, swing my leg over the back of the chair, knock over a bottle of beer. Damn, is she watching? Is she watching?
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Aleks (new) - added it

Aleks What was the book that you absolutely loved?

message 3: by Aleks (new) - added it

Aleks But what if I'm a mermaid?

Thanks, it's on the to-read list now.

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