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Light Boxes: A Novel Paperback – May 25, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jones's brief and bewildering war fable pursues the plight of a town battling to free itself from the brutal hold of the month of February (also sometimes a person or a force or merely a metaphor), a meanie that has not allowed its wintry grip to lift for hundreds of days. When the despairing townspeople, led by valiant Thaddeus Lowe and his wife and daughter, suffer reprisals from February and the priests for trying to break the weather, a group of former balloonists don bird masks and, calling themselves the Solution, instigate a rebellion. Thaddeus's daughter, Bianca, is kidnapped, along with other children, leading Thaddeus to plot ways to deceive February: townspeople walk around pretending it's summer and secure light boxes around their heads to simulate the sun. February, meanwhile, may simply be feeling unloved by his wife, the girl who smells of honey and smoke and who seems eerily like Bianca. It's a quaint and bizarre allegory that explores the perils of equivocation, but it's likely more pleased with its own cleverness than readers will be. (June)
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From Booklist

Originally issued in a limited edition of fewer than 1,000 copies, this unique novel of seasonal affective disorder come to life is now being published by a major house. In spare prose that could almost be considered poetry, Jones tells the story of a town ravaged by endless winter. Well, nearly endless—it’s been February for several hundred days straight. But February isn’t only a relentless month; it’s also the malevolent being holding the town under its sway. Wracked by depression and spurred on when children start to go missing, the townsfolk mount a war against February, who also turns out, well, sort of, to be the author of the story, struggling to romance the “girl who smells of honey and smoke.” Jones’ imagery and layers of metaphor and metafiction are alternately difficult to penetrate and light as air, like wandering in and out of a fever dream where the moment things come into focus they dissipate again. In that vein, this literary gem of metaphysical malaise has that ideally weird blend of offputting sensualism and heartfelt emotion—just the sort of thing to ensure a dedicated, if limited, following. --Ian Chipman
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 149 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143117785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143117780
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #577,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Blake Fraina VINE VOICE on June 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Based on the Edward Gorey-esque cover illustration, the back cover copy and it's slender profile, I thought Shane Jones's Light Boxes was going to be a quirky, whimsical allegory. But this is no children's tale. As a matter of fact, despite its modest length, it's packed with so many agonizing moments, I found it difficult to get through quickly.

This strange fantasia tells the story of a town being punished by an unseen God-like figure for their love of flying (kites, balloons, even the local birds), which is surely a metaphor for the freedom and joy inherent in the creative urge. The despot sentences them to live eternally in the bleak month that happens to share his name - February. As the month's frigid days drag on into the hundreds, children begin to disappear or turn up dead and several disastrous attempts at revolt only deepen the townsfolk's suffering and leave them in state of black despair. February itself symbolizes the soul-sucking effects of depression on creativity.

The publisher employs some rather precious gimmickry to get the author's point across; most notably changes in typeface and font size to indicate the various different points of view, tones of voice or the relative significance of a particular passage. While I personally found this effective and appealing, other readers might be annoyed by it. Most of the characters are mere sketches, but Jones's prose is evocative enough that I was able to build on them in my imagination as if I was fleshing out a hazy dream. Which is really what this novel most resembles. A gorgeously atmospheric dream that one has to surrender to in order to enjoy its full impact.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As soon as you begin reading Light Boxes, you will realize it's a different little book. The story and wonderful writing will hook you right away. What would you do if that terminally, dark, cold month of February never went away? And what would you do if you could never dream of flying again, especially if your is hobby sailing upwards in a hot air balloon, or watching your kite flitter in the wind higher and higher in the sky? You'd probably try and not forget the feeling and beauty and the sensations of flight even as you watch the birds fall from the sky and bees become listless.

The inhabitants of the village in Light Boxes have those things to face because flying has been banned, and it's always cold and dark, day after day and month after month, it's always February and it's February's fault that the children in the village are all disappearing. Where are they going and has February murdered them all?

Shane Jones has written an enchanting book with sparse prose that creates grand imagery of a town in grave danger and how the villagers cope with all of it. This is a magical book that you'll want to read over and over and I am sure each time you do something new will reveal itself in the images and the thoughtfulness created by such a small, powerful book. There is a lot going on in this story and you'll enjoy reading it. There are a few lists in this book that are amazing along with the strong and meaningful writing and impressive imagery. Even if it's not February, make yourself a pot of mint tea and dive into this story. You'll be delighted and enchanted, perplexed and pleased, it will be a most sweet journey into that short but cold, dark time known as February. If you are just getting this book, cracking it open and are beginning to read it for the first time, I envy you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first word that comes to mind, after having read this something-like-a-déjà vu-feeling of a novel, is magical. The last time I remember reading such a unique style of writing was when I first met Griffin & Sabine – as introduced to me by Nick Bantock in 1991. Unlike Griffin & Sabine, however, which is written in epistolary form, Light Boxes is written in several different fonts and sizes, ignoring word-count per page, whilst throwing away everything that even remotely resembles some semblance of continuity for the many inhabitants living in a small town under the spell of February. Phew.

The cold and dark month of February doesn’t like things that fly. So to punish the residents who fly kites and hot air balloons, February has banned flight of every kind and has catapulted the town with snow and ice and cold and dark, into a forever winter. During February’s long stay, children go missing, and depression filters into the crevices whilst the town begins to ban together to ward-off the nightmare of unending winter.

“Bianca whispers into the bathwater.

Maybe the priests aren’t really priests. Look at the way their silly robes move.
I want to be safe. I want to live inside a turtle shell.” page 20

Thaddeus, Bianca, Selah, Caldor.
The girl who smelled of honey and smoke.
War Effort members.
The Solution – who wear bird masks and black top hats.
And of course,
a godlike spirit named February.

“Then the stench of burning leaves, and the bulbs bloomed crystal white across his face. The War Effort cheered. Some ran out into the snow-filled plains to mock the sky. Others took turns fitting the box over their heads, letting the light soak into their winter beards.
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