Thaddeus Lowe, lives with his wife, Selah, and their daughter, Bianca, in a small town that appears to be unnamed. For some reason an individual called February has decreed that it should remain winter for all time, so for the last three hundred days this demiurge has imposed a perpetual February upon this town and it’s environs, everything is dull, dark & grey, highlighted only by the frigid white of the snow as it drops from the leaden clouds that circle like crows overhead. On top of this he has also banned “Flight”, that means anything that can – Balloons, Flying machines, Kites, in fact he goes further anything, ANYTHING that has or possesses the ability to fly will be destroyed. His priests “for whenever such a being appears, instantaneously followers sprout from the soil they walk on”, haunt the town, stopping off at the school & library “They confiscated textbooks, tore out pages about birds, flying machines, Zeppelins, witches on brooms, balloons, kites, winged mythical creatures. They crumpled up paper airplanes the children had folded and they dumped the pages into a burning pit in the woods”. Any reference to flight is NOT allowed in February’s world as proclaimed by the Great man himself. Also Children are vanishing.
Thaddeus and his family, silently protest. Filling their home with images of flight hidden inside cupboards and on the undersides of crockery, even easily covered body parts are hennaed with complex kite patterns, their tails forming an intricate constellation as though an armour to ward off February’s onslaught. His wife makes concoctions of mint tea, salves, fill their bath with this herb, and make a soup.
Hoping that this herb will protect them, and for a while it seems to work. At some point Thaddeus meets The Solution, a group of former balloonists who wear strange bird masks and who are planning to revolt against February, they have chosen Thaddeus to be their leader, to assist them in their war against the demiurge for the sake of his family, Thaddeus dreamt of “two miniature suns. I set one each upon their foreheads I dreamed a waterfall and a calm lake of my arms below to catch them” As The Solution then leave “walking, dreaming of flying in separate directions”. Shortly after agreeing to lead the rebellion, his daughter Bianca, disappears,Selah’s Mint Soup8 cups chicken stock,
2 cups mint leaves
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
“Before daybreak, Thaddeus smells smoke and honey coming from Bianca’s bedroom. In her room he notices the window is open and snow is blowing in.
He throws the covers off the bed
He looks around the room.
He looks under the bed.
He looks in the closet.
He looks in the hallway.
He looks at his feet.
He looks at the bed. He looks at the bed.
Bianca's bed is a mound of snow and teeth.
Bianca is gone.
Apparently kidnapped from her bed. Now on a total war footing, Thaddeus & The Solution, try different tactics to defeat February, these range from pretending spring has arrived & ignoring the freezing conditions, hoisting poles to destroy the clouds & creating this elaborate system to carry boiling water to melt the snow – all fail in the end & anger February.
This is a book that is strange, beautiful, quirky, that is absurd, eccentric, that I could plough through a multitude of thesauri and still only offer you morsels, an amuse-bouche from a fine dining experience. Light Boxes is a book of poems, chants, and notes, of mantras & magic, of lists, of love & hate. This is also a book that will divide, some will love its use of different fonts, font-sizes, lists & formats, the fact that some pages contain merely a sentence & others a catalogue of names, others these same devices will annoy. For me this was wonderful, the look, the feel of the book, everything from the artwork to the poetry inside, enchanted and beguiled me. Lee Rourke in his fantastic book “A Brief History of Fables” described it as a contemporary fable & as such it has the ability to “ Shed light on whatever it is we look at, because it speaks to us in the same way that all good fables do, no matter how far-fetched or magical and hallucinatory they at first may seem: in a language we can truly understand” .
I’ll leave the last word on this beautiful and heart-rending poetic fable, myth, novel (?) to February.
“I wanted to write you a story about magic. I wanted rabbits appearing from hats. I wanted balloons lifting you into the sky. It turned out to be nothing but sadness, war, heartbreak. You never saw it, but there’s a garden inside me.”
Shane Jones was born 1980 in Albany, New York and is a novelist, short story writer, and poet. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals, including New York Tyrant, Unsaid, Typo, and Pindeldyboz. He lives in upstate New York.
Shane Jones(Penguin Books)