February 26, 2014

Light Boxes by Shane Jones and why I DNF'd it


Light Boxes by Shane Jones is a novel of experimental writing told from multiple perspectives. I think it has a fantastic cover and the blurb on the back of the book convinced me I would like this book.
The inhabitants of a closely knit town are experiencing perpetual February, and that means unending cold and darkness. It turns out that a godlike spirit, named February, is punishing the town for flying and bans flight of all kind, including hot air balloons and even children's kites. It's February who makes the sun nothing but a faint memory, who blankets the ground with snow, who freezes the rivers and the lakes. As the punishing weather continues, children go missing and adults become nearly catatonic with depression, all but giving up hope. But others find the strength to fight back - and launch a war against February.

- blurb on back cover of Light Boxes 
I did not like this book. I wanted to like this book, but after reading more than half of it I had zero interest and decided to consider it DNF (did not finish).

I love fables, even dark fables. I love metaphor. I love the surreal. I love imagery. I love fantastical, magical tales. I guess you could say this book has all of these elements, and yet .... The elements didn't pull together for me. I understand that the writing is experimental, and I don't mind experimental writing. Experimental writing requires the reader to look at it differently. Yes, this can be more work for the reader, and I don't mind working for it. I do expect some kind of "pay off" though. I should enjoy it, I should be intrigued, or I should be thinking "deep thoughts" because of it, or it should move me in some way, or .... Let's just say I did not enjoy it, did not remain intrigued, did not think deep thoughts, and I wasn't moved. Instead I was annoyed. Frustrated. I had a big question mark hanging over my head. I wondered why I was spending time reading it. This book did not connect with me, and I do believe that a reader should be able to connect with a book on some level for some reason.

I'm familiar with reading poetry as prose, and it is my understanding that Shane Jones writes poetry. One of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury, does this (read The Halloween Tree) and I love it. There is a flow to the words and images. I can hardly separate the words from the images in my head and the feelings pressing against me and reaching for my emotions. I tried to read Light Boxes in this way. Nope. Didn't work for me.

The writing in Light Boxes seemed too conscious of itself, as if on every page it was shouting, "Look at me! I'm experimental!" It came across as gimmicky. It lacked the poetry. It was more like looking at a writer's notes about a story, still in draft mode.

With all that said, I still love the cover (illustration by Ken Garduno) and there are plenty of readers who did like this book - very much. You can read their reviews on Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon.com, etc. and then decide for yourself whether or not you want to read it.

Did you read Light Boxes? Did you write a review? If so, let me know and I will link to your review in order to provide other perspectives.

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