The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is Kristopher Jansma's debut novel.
I always take the time to read the dedication pages before I begin to read a book. I was intrigued by this entry....."If you believe that you are the author of this book, please contact Haslett &Grouse Publishers (New York, New York) at your first convenience."
We meet the narrator when he is eight years old and has just written his first story, while waiting in an airport's Terminal B for his mother to finish work. We follow the young man to college in his quest to become a writer. It is at college that he meets Julian - a gifted, yet unstable young man. And Julian's friend Evelyn - who will forever be 'the one' for him. The one he writes for, the one he desires, the one he will never have.
The book is divided into two sections - What Was Lost and What Was Found. The first half almost reads like it is Jansma's own road to publication, with the names changed. One piece of advice to the young writer is "Tell all the truth but tell it slant" - a line from a poem by Emily Dickinson. The second half is on a slant - the names change and the narrator assumes the persona of Julian - the more successful of the two. The book is a collection of short stories, of books within books and filled with literary references and asides. For me, it had a distinct Fitzgerald feel - specifically Gatsby.
I enjoyed the first half much more than the second. Jansma explores lies and truth and the weaving of both into fiction. "These stories are all true, but only somewhere else." The second half caught me off guard with some abrupt switches - and I didn't like the narrator as much as I did for the first half. Throughout it all, we are left to wonder - what is the truth and what is fiction. I did adore the ending.
I had just finished watching a movie called The Words, in which a writer claims another man's work as his own - to critical acclaim, when I picked up this book. The movie was about the need to produce a work that will be recognized and will stand after the author has passed. The desire to capture the words, to make people feel the work. Jansma has captured that same desperate pursuit with his narrator and in doing so, has captured us as well.
This is a book that deserves more than one reading - there are layers and themes I know I have missed - connections, references and more, not captured the first time around. Read an excerpt of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards.
You can find Kristopher Jansma on Twitter and on Facebook. Want to know more about Kristopher - check out this Q&A.
Thanks to Viking Books, I have a copy of this wonderful to giveaway! Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends Sat. May 4.