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420 Characters

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  702 Ratings  ·  178 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Richard Derus
Jan 13, 2013 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 Characters marks a new turn in an acclaimed artist and illustrator’s career
Nov 10, 2011 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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
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
Laurie Notaro
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this little book. The stories are no longer than 420 characters; some are hilarious, others troubling, others absolute poetry. It is amazing to think what narrative can be told in about three sentences. A must for writers, both active and looking for inspiration. I truly enjoyed it.
Apr 20, 2016 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.
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
Jun 16, 2012 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
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 18, 2011 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
May 21, 2012 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.
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!!!
Dec 25, 2011 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
Dec 28, 2011 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 10, 2012 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
Dec 08, 2011 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
Oct 21, 2012 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
Jan 06, 2012 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 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
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. (
Dec 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lissa Adamson
Jun 23, 2016 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.
Adalira Morningstar
What the fuck did I just read?
Ian Sims
Four years ago I found a copy of 420 Characters in an alley on my college campus. I placed it among my other books, and some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth, and for two and half thousand years the Ring passed out of all knowledge.

Er, well, maybe it wasn't the "one ring," but it was forgotten for a fair bit of time, but I finally dusted it off and gave it a read.

And how amazing was it? Not amazing.

And how terrible was it? Not terri
This book was born from a series of Facebook statuses by it's author - each a story complete in and of itself, contained inside 420 characters or less. The stories vary, from realistic to bizarre and dreamlike, but are uniformly interesting and captivating - quite the impressive feat.

I found a good many of them, however, to be . . . unapologetically male, and not in a good way - drifting into vaguely and not-so-vaguely misogynistic on numerous occasions. Although the writer is undeniably both t
The concept of this book was what originally drew me to it, and for the most part, I was impressed. To tell a story in 420 characters is undoubtedly a challenge, but the story mastery to imbed cues for the reader to draw conclusions and fill in gaps is far more impressive. Some stories were great, some fell flat, while others were plain creepy.

I thought I would read one story every night until I finished the book, but that simply didn't happen. While you could read the whole book in an afternoo
Eva Sanchez
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it with all of my little heart.
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was a digital media spin on the two sentence story. As with most short story collections, there are some hits and some misses. I enjoyed the few read alouds in there. A short and quick read.
Think of it as the Haiku version of a short story. Each story is 420 or less characters long. Some were very moving, some clever, some pointless. Certainly a quick read!
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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?” 3 likes
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