by Shane Jones
Winter as maleficent force is an old idea yet captivating idea. That’s probably why the Narnia of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is best known: it is always winter but never Christmas. Here, it is always February. It hasn’t always been February — people in town still remember spring and summer — but February has been going on for hundreds of days. February has apparently stolen flight and kidnapped children, so people have gone to war with February.
If you are thinking this sounds like just the right book to be reading in February, particularly in a February where we are on perhaps record pace for snowfall (nearly six feet of snow has fallen in Boston so far), you might be right. I have nothing against February, or against snow, but it seems to be a bit much for most people; I would find hundreds of days of February unbearable. That’s one of the things that feels right about this book, that February has the power to get to people, it can wear people down, it can make them sad, and at a certain point, things seem to stop making sense and you just feel crushed.
Not that it is a depressing book. It isn’t. What it most feels like is the story of a dream. In dreams, you just know things. Dreams have a certain logic to them, usually in a way that can’t be properly explained to anyone else. Trying gets you part way, but not all the way there. Light Boxes reads a bit like that, like you are listening to the story of someone else’s fantastic dream. Which is to say there are some strong, fascinating images (the colorful bird-masked men, the children twisting owls’ heads, the kites painted on a young girls arms), feelings you can’t quite place and are caught up in, and you don’t really know where you are a lot of the time.
It’s fable-like bedtime story, not realistic fiction. But then, who wants to read realistic fiction about February? Even people like me, who love winter, don’t really want that.