Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Call This a 'Shane Jones Thank You Card', If You Like

Ah yes, I do still exist here. Somewhat thoughtfully, even!

Who doesn't enjoy fables? And dreams, whose dreams aren't pleasant? A lot of times mine aren't. They're interesting, but I'd describe them as exhausting, too. Like getting into an involved conversation with a bespectacled, post-menopausal woman in the middle of a labyrinthine shopping mall, at the bottom of a staircase worthy of M.C. Escher. At which spot we conversed about how the staircase was stylistically similar to those staircases built in the '80s, lacquered wood-paneling for hand supports and thin, gray metal beams fixing them in place and completing the baluster -- although, as she'd said, it had been built even earlier than that, at least as early as the '70s. It had pre-dated the style. Perhaps it was the very first of its kind?

Now, what the hell was the point of regaling you with that, you wonder?

It illustrates why nobody likes to hear about your dreams, so stop bothering them. And in so doing, it offers an example of why, though dream-like (as many great works of fiction are), "Light Boxes" by Shane Jones is much much better than that reductive categorization. (Further, that that categorization is extremely easy and lame and when accompanied by nothing or little else, the term "dream-like" is pretty much devoid of meaning.)

Firstly, the plot, oh, the plot, indeed!

The plot operates as a kind of character in itself, stretching the limits of what its characters can endure. What they're asked to endure, put plainly, is an endless February that's together a person (the primary antagonist), a place (the two-holed opening in the sky (although this is admittedly a bit tenuously labeled, as the two holes isn't referred to expressly as February, but more as the residence of February; oh bother), and a thing (the endless winter in which circumstances of the narrative are situated).

Then there are the narrative shifts in perspective, from any number of the heroes, to February him/itself, to the girl who smells of honey and smoke (a simple description which is pretty remarkable for its potent terseness; a description you can almost taste).

There's much in the way of abstraction, and certainly in this abstraction, much metaphor to parse. I kind of like looking at it as a straight-up narrative, though. I remarked in an earlier post, a post I'd written before I'd known much at all about about "Light Boxes," writing that "everything in the novel is February. A nice and cold month devoid of feeling" (I was referring to Sam Pink's "Person" but apparently I could just as easily have been talking about "Light Boxes"). I feel like I get it, Mr. Jones, casting "February" as your villain IS the only logical choice.

And what a conflicted villain. We never know much about February's angle, except that it's something he/it feels he/it must do. There seems to be no pleasure resultant from the imposition of an endless winter. This subsequent lack of understanding motivation, even where understanding them means understanding something truly terrible, is repelled by most people. We want to know why people go on shooting sprees, or crash planes into buildings or commit a Holocaust. That's what Thaddeus, the leader of the townspeople, seems to desire. Why are people taken from him (in various ways) and why won't February end? How do we make it end? His obsession leads him down a road fraught with hazards, until finally he comes face-to-face, I think, with February.

It's a great read.

Oh, and apparently it's February now, as I'm writing this. Believe or not, that wasn't planned, though I do so love good coincidences.