420 Characters
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 that began as Facebook status updates mark a new turn in an acclaimed artist and illustrator’s career.

This e-book edition has been enhanced with original collages by the author and with exclusive audio of fifteen stories brilliantly read by legendary rock musician Dave Alvin, Golden Globe-winning actor Ian McShane, and Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges.

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547617947

  • ISBN-10: 0547617941

  • Pages: 176

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 12/06/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 1

Lou Beach

Lou Beach

Lou Beach’s illustrations have appeared in Wired, The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. He has designed album covers for Weather Report, The Neville Brothers, Blink 182, and many others. This is his first book of prose.
Learn More
  • reviews


    "A dreamy collection of mini stories and illustrations..."

    --New York Magazine

    "Marvels of economy."

    --New York Times T Magazine

     "Beach injects these tidy depictions with...boundless, michievous imagination... Unforced, thoughtful, occasionally profound...sly, surprising, playful, puzzling--and great fun."

    --Publishers Weekly

    "Eclectic, vivid moments in time, delivered in the exacting limits of social media...bold, impulsive flash fiction... These moments are...theatrical, instantly recognizable and slide off the tongue with the cacophony of a Tom Waits riff. An adroit experiment that marries linguistic restraint to literary cool."

    --Kirkus Reviews

    "Sharp and driven by a droll witl...endearing and estranging...a sharp and wonderfully funny debut...these stories add up to something wonderful."

    --Library Journal

    "Holy shit! Those are great! ... May they last a thousand years and be chiseled in stone."

    -Jonathan Lethem

    "Lou Beach uses words with no sympathy for the reader. He beats us senseless with his brilliance."

    -Terry Gilliam

    "[Beach] understands narrative in a deep way."

    -J. Robert Lennon

    "Lou Beach is full of wit, mirth and intelligence."--Gary Panter, Emmy Award-winning author of Jimbo in Purgatory

    "In only a few sentences, he remarkably manages to evoke character, milieu and mood."

    -Joe Frank, Peabody Award-winning radio personality

    "Bizarre and awesome."



    "The art of Lou Beach is probably smarter than you."

    -Matt Groening

    "Very precise hallucinations ... taking your breath away."

    -George Saunders

    "Original, provocative, definitely outside the box."

    -Jeff Bridges

  • excerpts

    Author's Note

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

    THE STORM came over the ridge, a rocket, dropped rain like bees, filled the corral with water and noise. I watched lightning hit the apple tree and thought: “Fritters!” as we packed sandbags against the flood. There was nowhere to go that wasn’t wet, the squall had punched a hole in the cabin roof and the barn was knee-high in mud. We’ll bury Jess later, when the river recedes, before the ground turns hard again.

    THE TRAIN pulled into the station. I hesitated before stepping down to the platform, then made my way to the shoeshine stand. I sat, put my foot up on the metal rest. The old man looked up before tending to my shoe. “You new in town?” I told him that indeed I was. “OK then,” he said and began cleaning my loafer. There was a local paper on the chair next to mine. The headline read: fire in hospital melts iron lung.

    ZUMA PEDLEY hailed from Lubbock, came to L.A. in ’02 with his guitar, some songs, and an ugly dog. He didn’t think to change the world, wasn’t built that way, but thought music might lessen the burden of those with hearts. He was looking for an army of smiles, but settled for a girl with corn hair and a bungalow in the hills, grew tomatoes. The dog is still ugly.

    I AM EXPLORING in the Bones, formations of caves interspersed with rock basins open to the sky. I hear a sound like a turbine as I exit a cave and approach the light ahead. I’m sure it’s a waterfall. What I encounter is a massive beehive, honeycomb several stories high, millions of bees. I crouch down to avoid detection and notice a shift in the tone of the hive’s collective drone. I turn around and see the bear.

    SHE TRUSTED grins, they were shot directly from the heart. Whereas smiles, oh, smiles could trick, be untrue, do you harm. Mendacious, twisted with bad intentions, like her father’s, his mouth turned up at one corner like a beckoning finger, pulling his eye down into a squint.

    WHILE I WAS AWAY you managed to rust all my tools. How is that possible? Did you dip them in the bathtub like tool fondue? I do not understand. You deny everything but cannot explain the rusted brad puller, pliers, awl, and bucksaw in our bed. “Maybe someone was playing a joke,” you say, then add: “A wet hammer is still a hammer.”

    THE GUNNYSACK hangs from the pommel, full of sparked ore. I let Shorty sip from the stream, long neck arching in the sun. There is a ghost in the cottonwood I sit under to reread your letters. It tries to sniff the pressed flowers you sent from the garden in Boston, but the scent is gone. The petals and paper, envelope, all smell like campfire now.

    MOUSE AND I lie on our stomachs on the warm and weathered planks. The little bridge spans the stream two feet below and the sun lays its hands on our backs. We drop pebbles into the creek and startle water striders, add to the trove of shining rocks and stones. Preteen bombardiers, we laugh at splashes. Twenty feet away, in another world, our parents and their friends sit on blankets, eat sandwiches and drink beer.

    HE CALLED AGAIN. I accepted the charges of course, paid no attention to what he was saying, it’s always the same story. I focused on the background noise — the grunts and rough laughter, the shouting. Once I heard a scream, his receiver clattered against the wall, the line went dead. I picture the wall, men leaning against it, scratching names and pictures into it, waiting for their turn. I try to imagine the smell.

    I can’t.

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547617947

  • ISBN-10: 0547617941

  • Pages: 176

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 12/06/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 1

Want the latest...

on all things Fiction & Literature?