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May 26th, 2010 Roxanne Macmanus | Books
 

Shane Jones Light Boxes

The war with winter.

     
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New Yorker Shane Jones’ debut novel, Light Boxes(Penguin, 160 pages, $14),is a fable about the inevitability of sadness. It chronicles a town where misery takes the form of the perpetual gloom of February, a place where townspeople go to war against winter with boiling water and boxes of light. Constant font shifts and a whimsical plot make Light Boxes fun to read, despite tragic elements like murder and disappearing children. Jones’ characters are purposely flat: Husband Thaddeus loses his family and wants to kill February; Thaddeus’ daughter, Bianca, is simply described as a girl with black hair. But the lack of character development lends a relatable quality of anonymity, keeping our attention fixed on their inescapable world of pain and beauty. A place where horses have necks like “ropes of muscle” and “wet moss from the snow [looks] like green foam.” Jones’ imagery and language invigorates a simple tale, bringing it to a fantastical place between poetry, drama and the delicate otherworldliness of children’s books. The contrast between disappointment and desire in Light Boxes is heartfelt, and most acute in the personification of February, a sad man who lives in his parents’ basement and writes stories. In other words, it’s pretty much about a magical Portland.

 
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