There's a new collection of short stories – extremely short stories, just 420 characters long (including spaces). They feature western gunslingers, couples in crisis, dogs and talking chickens. The author, Lou Beach, has managed to pack each tiny tale with vivid descriptions and narratives that are at once funny, sad, and bracing. Beach is first and foremost an illustrator and collage artist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and on dozens of album covers. After joining Facebook, he decided people weren't being creative enough with their 420-character status updates. Instead of chronicling his children or coffee dates, "I thought I would inject some fantasy." (He initially set up a website for the stories.) Beach reveled in the constraints. "It was a very good exercise," he tells Kurt Andersen. "I just got rid of a lot of junk and went for the heart of the narrative. But that's the same thing as making art, as well. You pile a lot of stuff on there and you take it out until you've got the essence."       Bonus Tracks: Lou Beach reads more 420-character stories          loadSurvey( "listener-challenge-420-character-stories", "survey_listener-challenge-420-character-stories");

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