I am a semi-secret fan of Daughtry. I liked his sound on American Idol, I loved his self-titled debut album, and I basically liked his follow-up album, Leave This Town. I’m aware that I lose any snob street cred by liking his music, but I can’t help myself. When I noticed an opportunity to pre-order his third album, Break the Spell, on iTunes, I put it on my credit card without a second thought. And while, at this point, you already know whether or not you like Daughtry and are interested in a predictable third album, so it’s kind of stupid to write a review.. I am that kind of stupid, so here we go.
This beautiful collection of hyper-minimalist stories is simply stunning. Lou Beach presents himself with a simple challenge - make an impact in a Facebook status update, which means writing 420 characters or fewer - and succeeds in roughly 160 different ways. Each page of this collection is one status update, each standing independently but some tracing faint connections through the volume in a vaguely Spoon River Anthologykind of way. Some are complete stories with a beginning, middle, and end, and some are completely surreal images that don’t have an obvious surface-level connection, but most are single rich images that suggest much larger stories. I have been madly in love with minimalism since reading a Chuck Palahniuk essay about Amy Hempel (and then devouring each of her collections), and most of Beach’s work compares well with the best of Hempel’s creations. Beach clearly understands exactly how to cultivate just the most evocative details of a scene, like a cowboy realizing that all of his lover’s letters have taken on the aroma of campfires, a child absorbing the warmth of a small wooden bridge while dropping pebbles into the stream below, or three lines of dialogue that suggest the overall shape of a passionate argument.