A Feature Review of
Reviewed by Philip Zoutendam
Dystopian. That’s what got me to the bookstore for this novel. Good novel, very good novel, even excellent novel, and I can wait for second-hand or maybe even a library copy. But a dystopian novel—some future world falling apart for being too tightly held together—will get hardcover price from me. (Which is why I have a hardcover box set of The Hunger Games, though I couldn’t bear to finish them.)
A curious thing about this particular “dystopian novel”: there is no doubt, from the first chapter, that it is an excellent novel, but there is a lot of room to question whether it actually is a dystopian one.
“Not Made to Be God“
A Review of
Light Boxes: A Novel.
By Shane Jones.
Light Boxes: A Novel.
Paperback: Penguin, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard relates her childhood encounter one January with the Polyphemus moth, “…beautiful… one of the few huge American silk moths…,” which her classmate brings to school, still in its cocoon. She and her peers pass it around, feel it jump inside its “spun silk and leaf”; look it up in a book to see what it will be when it emerges. Finally, they put it in a mason jar to mature. The heat of their hands has woken it to its purpose, and it struggles out, “a sodden crumple,” and breathes, still, under their gaze.
“He couldn’t spread his wings. There was no room. The chemical that coated his wings like varnish, stiffening them permanently, dried, and hardened his wings as they were. He was a monster in a Mason jar. Those huge wings stuck on his back in a torture of random pleats and folds, wrinkled as a dirty tissue, rigid as leather. They made a single nightmare clump still wracked with useless, frantic convulsions. (Pilgrim… 62)
The children and their hapless teacher would be benign lords to the doomed creature: they want only to see it become everything it is created to be. Yet by their very attention they consign the moth to a short life characterized by suffering and unfulfilled potential. Despite their intentions, they succeed in ensuring that it will never fly.
Shane Jones, too, has coaxed a creature from its cocoon — his debut novel, Light Boxes, 500-or-so copies of which were published in 2009 by the tiny Publishing Genius Press. Jones promoted his fledgling work relentlessly by every meager means available, till the unthinkable occurred: Spike Jonze (Where The Wild Things Are, Being John Malkovich) optioned it for film, and Penguin Books picked up a second printing for the national market.