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It smells of oil and gas and rubber. 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.

‘ Characters’ by Lou Beach - The Boston Globe

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Can you write a story in just 420 characters?

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An adroit experiment that marries linguistic restraint to literary cool. Review Posted Online: Oct.

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Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. Email address:. In one, a skydiver shares a tender moment with a pigeon entangled in his gear as they plummet to the ground together, hearts racing in unison. Dogs appear frequently, perhaps because when your stories are restricted to characters, a three-letter protagonist is a major asset.

Drawing on his background as a visual artist, Beach dreams up brilliant textures and surreal imagery. Most, however, feel like writing prompts or ambitious introductory paragraphs for stories yet to be written. Encountering a promising, potentially exciting fictive world and then seeing it abandoned without any sense of closure is deeply frustrating.

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Beach gives the impression that these stories were taken directly from his Facebook account, without revisions, and there is definitely a hurried, off-the-cuff tone to them. In the acknowledgements, Beach thanks the fans and supporters who followed his updates as he posted them, and it seems safe to assume that many of them left comments that may have influenced subsequent entries or otherwise added to the experience.

It would have been nice to have seen the effect that instant feedback and a direct relationship between author and audience can have on the creative process.

This past September, Facebook increased the character limit for status updates to 5,, affording users a larger canvas on which to experiment. It seems like only a matter of time before the first Facebook novel appears. One can only hope that it leverages the unique strengths of the medium, rather than relying on its limitations.