"They are minimalist in word count only, since Beach’s imagination ranges as widely as his protagonists….Just because a story is short, even really, really short, doesn’t mean it can’t contain multitudes…the cumulative effect is one of gravity, humor and conviction….some of the experiments produce surprising and beautiful results."
—New York Times Book Review
"A dreamy collection of mini stories and illustrations..."
—New York Magazine
"Marvels of economy."
—New York Times T Magazine
"Beach has managed to pack each tiny tale with vivid descriptions and narratives that are at once funny, sad, and bracing."
"Beach has conjured self-contained, snow-globe-like worlds that are, like the dog curled up by the staircase, perfect."
"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."
"[Beach's] ability to capture complex scenes in just a few strokes makes his first book of fiction a keeper . . . Every story here is sharpened to a point."
—The Observer's Very Short List
"It’s rare to find a book as seamless and fascinating as Lou Beach’s 420 Characters."
"From the great collagist and graphic designer Lou Beach comes a mischievous montage of a different sort: a tiny book filled with tiny stories . . . tragic, absurd, and sweet by turns, each snip of a story is a gem, able to hold its own against more standard-length fare."
—Flavorwire (A Must-Read Pick for December)
"Bizarre and awesome."
"This charming stocking stuffer proves just how much "Beach injects these tidy depictions with...boundless, michievous imagination... Unforced, thoughtful, occasionally profound...sly, surprising, playful, puzzling--and great fun."
"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."
"Sharp and driven by a droll wit...endearing and estranging...a sharp and wonderfully funny debut...these stories add up to something wonderful."
"Renowned for his intricate collages, a suite of which are reproduced here in full color, Beach brings his great gift for unexpected juxtapositions to his brief yet richly evocative and crisply visualized tales. Linked by reappearing characters, these microdramas of malaise and desire have an outlaw element, wry humor, frissons of creepiness, and bursts of beauty. Drifting in time, Beach’s potent little stories tell of love and family gone horribly wrong, drunkenness and desperation, dreams and wonder . . . Beach’s concentrated improvisations are emotive, disarming, and resplendent."
"Holy shit! Those are great! ... May they last a thousand years and be chiseled in stone."
"Lou Beach uses words with no sympathy for the reader. He beats us senseless with his brilliance."
"[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
Eclectic, vivid moments in time, delivered in the exacting limits of social media. Well, this is one hell of a way to mitigate the boredom of those monotonous Facebook updates. Celebrated illustrator Beach, better known for designing album covers for Weird Al Yankovich and The Flying Burrito Brothers, here turns his uncommon sensibilities to the written word, composing a small fortune in vignettes that originally appeared as Facebook updates. There are a few recurring themes and characters, but most stories exist as such gems on their own that it's easy to gobble them up like popcorn. An early standout finds an elderly narrator staring at a picture he (or she) painted long ago, struggling to excavate its original meaning. A miner reflects on the closing of his workplace for 27 years: "Where am I going to go every day, what am I going to do with all that sunshine?" Some are completely nonsensical: "I don't have to listen. I own the ocean," is just a couplet in one preposterous paragraph. Others are simply, evilly dark: "My hands are bound, and I am pressed against the spare tire. If there was a God, I would believe in him. The lid comes down and I am in darkness. It smells of oil and gas and rubber." Certainly some will argue that this is just another folly of the blogs-to-books phenomenon exemplified by Stuff White People Like and other humorous texts, but this book has more in common with bold, impulsive flash fiction than it does with the featherweight detritus of the Internet. These moments, even if not all of them are universal to the human experience, are theatrical, instantly recognizable and slide off the tongue with the cacophony of a Tom Waits riff. Don't miss the bonus section on the author's website, where celebrity narrators Ian McShane, Dave Alvin and Jeff Bridges lend their unique cadences to Beach's miniature snapshots. An adroit experiment that marries linguistic restraint to literary cool.