Friday, December 10, 2010

Light Boxes, Shane Jones (The Great Library Challenge author J)

Posted by lea at 12:52 PM
Okay okay, I know you're thinking, 'I thought you were going to read James Joyce for your J author!' (because, of course, you care so incredibly much about my Great Library Challenge). But, I've been defeated. Round one: Ulysses.

At first I was determined to conquer it at some point, even if not now, but I've thrown in the towel and have to admit: I don't care about two drunkards who ramble around Dublin making no sense. I just don't care. So there, literary gods.

Moving on.

Perhaps from the trauma of trying to read such a hefty book, I found the smallest alternative possible in Light Boxes. It's literally a small book, around A5 in size, but the content... oh the content. Thank God I put down Ulysses or I might never have found Shane Jones.

Light Boxes is a heartbreakingly beautiful book, a melancholic fable about a town afflicted by eternal winter as 'February' refuses to loosen its grip. At the centre of the story is a simple family: Thaddeus, Selah and their daughter Bianca.

The townspeople look to Thaddeus, a balloonist, to lead their revolt against February as they attempt all manner of acts of war: using tall poles to forcibly move the dark clouds, wearing shorts and pretending that June has arrived, pouring boiling water to melt the snow and trick winter into leaving. But no dice.

February is not your average one-dimensional bad guy either. He's a complicated figure - one you can't quite work out because his issues are so deep ranging. And he's arbitrary, like using the priests to ban flight, and then one by one, kidnapping the children, including Bianca.

The prose is as close to poetry as you can get, and is richly imaginative and impossibly tender. Typography is put to good use and various other tools, like lists and changing perspectives, add layers to the story.

Light Boxes evokes so many feelings, a bit of whimsy but mostly sadness. I constantly felt like I had that expression that I hated on Gwyneth Paltrow when she won the Oscar - eyebrows contracted and lifted in the middle, mouth in a small O, like you're half in pain and half in pleasure.

It's a beautiful read and I highly highly recommend it.

PS - I just did a google search on it and found out that apparently it's now officially achieved cult status. Well, as officially as you can get with cult status. From the original independent print run of 500, it got picked up by Penguin Books and distributed globally. The original pints are now worth $200!

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