My favorite novel of the past ten years is almost certainly Light Boxes by Shane Jones. I love it for all sorts of reasons, too many to name, not the least of which being its ability to make me feel like I’m deeply inhabiting its setting. And this is all the more impressive when you factor in that Light Boxes is a surrealistic text. Little of what happens in this book is possible under the known laws of physics and rationality. Yet when I read it, I feel like I’m there. I feel like I’m in snowbound. I feel like I’m one of the villagers in this town that cannot exist, part of a war effort waged against the month of February, which casts a long shadow over their lives, and refuses to end.
I feel this because Jones’ prose emphasizes the tangible. He highlights the physical. Part fabulist, part poet, he uses simple, direct language to draw the reader’s attention to equally simple and direct elements, which he often repeats. A kind of rhythm develops. Again and again we see balloons, snow, clouds, birds, moss, honey, smoke. These are simple, tangible building blocks, yet they come together to build a rich and fascinating world. Despite a surface-level simplicity, Jones’ world conjures its own kind of complexity through the use of familiar language in unfamiliar contexts, and the depth of feeling this relationship evokes in the reader. Read More