Light Boxes – Shane Jones

The BookDepository

Five words from the blurb: Flight, banned, ominous, children, honey

I decided to read Light Boxes when David from Follow the Thread named it as one of his favourite reads in 2010. It is certainly an original book, but I can’t decide whether I like it or not.

The problem is that this book pushes the boundary of the novel so far that it almost becomes art. I read for the excitement/emotion of the plot and this book felt as though I was looking at a series of scenes instead of reading a novel.

The book is half the size of a normal paperback and each page briefly describes a new scene. Many of the pages are written in different formats and font sizes. For example, whispers are always written in a small sized font  and SHOUTING IN LARGE ONES. Lists and drawings are also used to illustrate points. The writing is simple, but packed with vivid imagery. I know that some people love these random scenes, but I think I failed to see the symbolism in it all.

Bianca’s ghost appears in the town. She wears red shorts and a white blouse and has long black hair. I watch her buy mint leaves and talk to shop owners about how soon until we will only experience summer. She walks through the streets passing out tulips whose petals have veins that spell out the word July.

The plot is very bizarre, but it is basically an adult fairytale in which an evil character bans the use of flight. The town has been stuck in a perpetual winter for more than 300 days and then the children start to go missing. It was all over very quickly and I was left wondering what the point of it all was. I think I’m just not the kind of person who appreciates art. If you want to spend an hour immersing yourself in a weird fantasy world then this is for you, but it was a bit too experimental for me.

Everyone else seems to love it:

Light Boxes is enchanting, whimsical and rather brutal in some parts. Mad Bibliophile

I could describe the experience of reading Light Boxes as being like witnessing a beautiful mirage, but that wouldn’t be correct, because a mirage is ultimately insubstantial. Follow the Thread

Light Boxes is almost inhumanly hopeful, offering insights both genuine and relevant, and distant echoes of our world in a war fought with futile tactics against a nebulous enemy. The Rumpus


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26 Comments

  1. Verity says:

    This sounds intriguing – publishers are getting a lot more avant garde aren’t they? i recieved a review copy yesterday which isntead of a blurb on the back said “Read page 29”. That annoyed me and I refused to read page 29 and just put it down without finding out what the book was about!

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, Weird! I am very intrigued about that and it actually has the opposite effect on me – I now want to find out which book it is and read p29!!

    2. ifi says:

      I love that! It would have annoyed me too but I think I would have flipped to page 29 anyway. And look, great publicity stunt, it got you talking about it and I too would like to know which book it is:)

      1. Jackie says:

        Ifi, I agree that it is amazing publicity – I’m going to try to find out what the book is!

  2. David H says:

    Sorry to hear it wasn’t quite for you, Jackie. As you say, it does depend on what you want to get from a novel.

    1. Jackie says:

      David, Yes. I can see why people love it, but I think I’m too boring to appreciate this sort of thing. :-(

  3. Sandy says:

    I’m pretty sure I’d love this. Not long ago, I read a book called “What It Is” and it almost defied description. But it was stirring to the senses and it tickled by brain. I’m pretty much an art idiot, but I do know when my eyes like it. This would be worth a try I think.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I think you’d love this one – I’m sure it will tickle your brain too :-)

  4. Steph says:

    Ok, this may not have worked entirely for you, but I love the idea of this book. Maybe I’m just in the mood for books with a fairytale element to them, but I also really love books that push the boundaries of what a novel can be. I am excited for this one! (or perhaps I should have written that in a super big font??? ;) )

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I have struggled with a lot of adult fairy tales recently (eg. The Girl with the Glass Feet, Tender Morsels) so perhaps it is the entire genre I can’t get my head around? If you are in the mood for fairy tales then I think this will be a real treat for you.

  5. Dorte H says:

    This one also sounds too arty for me. When I sit down to read a novel, I want a story, not scenes.

    1. Jackie says:

      Dorte, I’m glad I’m not the only one in the boring non-arty camp ;-)

  6. Bookechoes says:

    Wow. This book looks amazing to me. Weird fantasy world! Adult fairytale! Sign me up! I can see how it wouldn’t appeal to every reader though. I admit I have weird tastes.
    I’m curious though. You said this book “pushes the boundary of the novel so far that it almost becomes art.” Do you mean visual art? Do you consider literature to be a form of art? All literature or just some types of literature?

    1. Jackie says:

      Bookechoes, That is a tough question! I guess that all literature is a form of art, but I’m talking about getting pleasure from just looking at something. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I think my mind processes words in a different way to just looking at a picture. This book felt like looking at a series of pictures – perhaps it is something I need to get used to, or maybe I’m just set in my ways? Give it a try – if it sounds amazing to you then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. :-)

  7. Amy says:

    Huh, sounds different… the dif fonts might bother me I think!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, I’m still trying to work out if they are different fonts or just different sizes, but if you like a consistent font then you might find this book annoying.

  8. Jenny says:

    I have liked experimental fiction a lot in my life, and in other cases I’ve really hated it — but I am interested in the attempt, regardless. I am reading a book right now that blurs the line between book and art object, but on the other hand it’s poetry, which is much more like art to begin with.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, Experimental fiction is very hit/miss with me. It is really hard to know whether or not I’ll enjoy it in advance so I do have to keep trying it. The one good thing is that this book is very quick to read so you don’t waste much time on it if it turns out it isn’t for you.

  9. Beth F says:

    Hummmmm Not quite sure if this would be for me — mostly because crazy design (fonts and formatting) can be distracting.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I think you are supposed to be distracted by them – spending your time admiring their changing beauty. It doesn’t do much for me though ;-)

  10. parrish says:

    This sounds rather intriguing & if I recall correctly the last book you didn’t like because of its writing style & the way it used different formats was – Ilustrado, which I loved, in fact was one of my favourite books last year. So based on that I’m gonna love this (lol), so thanks for bringing it my attention.

    1. Jackie says:

      parrish, That is as good as reason as any to give this a try!!! It is very different in style to Illustrado though. A lot of the problems I had with Illustrado were to do with the complexity of the prose – I had trouble understanding everything mentioned. Light Boxes is much simpler and it is easy to follow what is happening. I hope that you enjoy it :-)

      1. Parrish says:

        Thanks Jackie, as you know now I loved it

  11. This one sounds really interesting to me. Even when I don’t enjoy them, I am glad to have read experimental novels (especially when they’re short!) I’m looking forward to the film version of this one too, with Spike Jonze set to direct.

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, I have heard conflicting reports about whether the film is still going ahead. Rumors are that it has been cancelled, but I don’t know how to verify them.

      I’m not sure how they could make this into a 1 hour+ long film as I don’t think enough happens. I hope the filming does go ahead as I’d be interested to see what they do with it, but I suspect that it wouldn’t be for me either :-(

  12. Kathleen says:

    It sounds like it is way outside my comfort zone but that probably draws me to it even more. I’d like to pick it up and at least leaf through it to see if it would strike me as something I should continue reading.

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