Light Boxes by Shane Jones

In Read

This is a pocket-sized story of unending winter in a small town, terrorised by February personified. Flight is prohibited and children start to disappear, abducted by February.

Light Boxes throws us into a compact fairytale, filled with visions of tea-cups, owls and kites. We become tangled in a dystopian vision crafted from fragmented scenes, pages upon pages filled with repetitions, bizarre one-line statements and contrasting font sizes. The vivid immediacy and non-sensical imagery is simultaneously beautiful and absurd.

 I vomit ice cubes

Heavily conceptual and rating low on plot, this fantastical world is testament to Jones’ power as a writer that Light Boxes, which is essentially an extended metaphor in the guise of a novel, is so engaging.

I close one eye and reach my hand out and tear open the horizon. I pull the sky up and towards me like old wallpaper.

As we follow the plot of a man named Thaddeus and his wife and daughter, we tumble further into Jones’ surrealist world which is saturated with despair. It becomes obvious that we are reading a fable not only about seasonal affective disorder, but about a miserable writer who exacts his vengeance upon the world in a rather biblical manner. He often cries, drinks a lot of coffee, and hasn’t had a haircut in six months, and a weekend in the sun in Cornwall might not hurt either.

 They held me and told me everything will be fine, that sadness will rise from our bones and evaporate in sunlight the way morning fog burned off the river in summer.

There are, however, moments of heavy-handedness where the allegorical message is too forced, such as the list of “possible cures for February” including light boxes, hot bathes, vitamin C and St. John’s Wort. Similarly the list of authors who wrote tales to cure bouts of depression, lodged halfway through the novel at random, seems obvious at best.

Light Boxes is enchanting, witty and devastatingly brutal in turns, but either way it’s a foray into a beautifully surreal world.

Submit a comment