Ever since I laid eyes on acclaimed illustrator and artist Lou Beach's virtual book 420 Characters, I've been taxed with trying to put into words how much I love this book. I first met Lou back in the late 70s when I was an Assistant Art Director at New West magazine. Lou's illustrations are original, very smart and reek of a wicked sense of dark humor. I decided to turn to my dear friend Michael Kellner, a brilliant book designer and artist, to write a guest review of 420 Characters for Design Nomad. Michael is the most well-read and literate person I know, so I thought it was a perfect time to defer to a master of words for his take on the book. Thank you Michael for this thoughtful post!
Lou Beach's online story collection, 420 Characters, is so elegantly conceived and realized as to delight or assuage anyone afflicted with terminal bibliomania. From front cover to back, this simulacrum of a late-19th century octavo--red boards, a small gold-leaf embossed design, the epitome of that condition booksellers generously quote as 'shows some shelf-wear'—collects the famed collage artist's impressive march on the written word. Each story, as we're informed in an Author's Note, is composed of 420 characters, including word spaces and punctuation, and first posted on a social networking site.
As one navigates through the book, the Title Page makes clever use of an early incarnation of publisher Little, Brown's colophon (L.B. now equals Lou Beach) while the stories that follow deliver the narrative goods with commensurate aplomb. Concise, varied, and evocative, Beach's stories are finely crafted miniatures worthy of an expanding readership. The site includes 16 embedded audio excerpts read by actors Jeff Bridges, Ian McShane, and Dave Alvin.
The whole farking thing is brilliant if you ask me, but you don't have to. Authors and artists from Jonathan Lethem to Gary Panter and Terry Gilliam have eagerly enlisted to say as much on the End Credits page. To be coveted, not missed. — Michael Kellner