A green arrived yesterday. A sickly sort of green. It was square, bound in six strands of string, and clutching another square, tall, arthritic letters on a milky patch of bled skin. But then the longer I stared into this green, its vibrancy, the more my mind seemed to float. I thought of moments of flu, the cursing of birds within my eardrums, and often I will drink white wine during flu (the best thing to do when sick is to ignore the entire reality of the situation [maybe]) and then stumble out into the field behind my house, to fall, to sprawl there and wait, for the vomiting, the slosh and wrack and upheaval, and then those long, hollow seconds afterward as I fold back against the prickly grass, as I feel a bit of earned self-pity (See? I told you I was fucking sick), the drool pooling off my lips, as I let go, down there with the soil now at head-level, and I will feel, well, yes, completely peaceful.
The Scary Mare Filled You With Night. No.
The You Filled With Mare Scary Night. No.
Bear with me. I lost six pounds in two days. Sometimes my knees slosh like honey and walnuts.
By Shane Jones.
Bear with me because I think this book is an illness. I read it four times and my stomach boils in its own wandering juices and I feel the fanning of heat across my forehead, pink tips of ears, and I know I am moved now, I know words move me (miraculous forces and rhythmic etchings), I know this book is a world and I dipped my eyes into this world and almost cried, almost cried but when I want to cry I do anything but cry, so I drank 7 beers, climbed a small elm, descended, went back inside, built a tiny house from couch pillows, drank 5 beers more, went back outside and granted every single dandelion amnesty. I will no longer kill the dandelions! (I raised my arm to the sun in some sort of awkward, dramatic salute.) They are plants, too. They are alive. Who am I to choose?
Bear with me. Not two days ago I sat in a bed-cave and screamed out hallucinations and identification papers of sweat.
I mean to say I am moved to empathy. All Shane Jones (I have read) moves me to empathy. Technique? Is it characterization? Oh, dialogue. Oh, visualization. Oh, write a list of things in the character’s glove compartment. Oh, a character sketch where we get an index card and we list every…
Shut the fuck up!
Sorry, sorry…Bear with me.
I have this fever. It’s like a huge child in my head. It is the huge child of Shane Jones’s imagination. It’s his world we get from accumulation, the way the borders of Shane Jones shape themselves, the “foxes on the red leash,” not in direct, descriptive lines, not in simple telling, but in stumbling upon cottages and candles and nursery rhymes and navy pea coats and potions and knives.
And always children (some as adults) inside the belly of the huge child.
The brilliance of Shane Jones and his characters are that he needs no more than brushstrokes, name (Avery, Anna), possibly gender, and then, the large thing, the large sympathetic thing, the reason we follow them—THEY ARE ACTED UPON.
Such as the sheriff. He places a note on the front door. The note says if you fall asleep you will Night Mare. You will meet Avery. (You do not want to meet Avery, trust me.) So you must remain awake. But how?
How can I remain awake, in this odd and clattery world?
Kill yourself. Kill yourself. Kill yourself over and over.
“When I come back outside I tell Anna it’s happening again. She pulls a knife from her coat pocket and cuts my wrists open.”
“I take the knife from Anna and slit her throat.”
“Henry jumps into a bear’s mouth.”
“How’s the baby.”
“Has he slept today.”
Bear with me now.
Like with tornadoes and tsunamis, even the animals know (in Shane Jones’s world, the animals always know, as it should be).
“A group of sleeping deer drowns in a puddle, turning blue, eyes bulging.”
“When I’m walking back home I see a cat impale itself on a sharp rock.”
Interesting the reversals in Shane Jones’s work. In this book. A boy playing a trumpet is not the hero. A motorcycle gang might be. Kill yourself to live. Sleep. Not restorative. Not restful or an escape.
Sleep as portal for Avery.
And what is Avery?
Avery is the one who wants all of us to kill the dandelions. An industry—pamphlets, prongs, products and pesticide pumps–to kill the dandelions. But why?
Because they are not of lawn.
Because they are intensely beautiful.
Because they gnarl in glow.
But now I speak in metaphor again. I cough in metaphor. And, no, I will not kill the dandelions. This is always the impact of reading Shane Jones. You are going to value sleep less, because sleep might just be obedience. You are going to do tilt to something else, a tumbling gesture toward something else.
It’s called awake.