The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads: An inventive and witty debut about a young man’s quest to become a writer and the misadventures in life and love that take him around the globe
From as early as he can remember, the hopelessly unreliable—yet hopelessly earnest—narrator of this ambitious debut novel has wanted to become a writer.
From the jazz clubs of Manhattan to the villages of Sri Lanka, Kristopher Jansma’s irresistible narrator will be inspired and haunted by the success of his greatest friend and rival in writing, the eccentric and brilliantly talented Julian McGann, and endlessly enamored with Julian’s enchanting friend, Evelyn, the green-eyed girl who got away. After the trio has a disastrous falling out, desperate to tell the truth in his writing and to figure out who he really is, Jansma’s narrator finds himself caught in a never-ending web of lies.
As much a story about a young man and his friends trying to make their way in the world as a profoundly affecting exploration of the nature of truth and storytelling, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards will appeal to readers of Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists and Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize–winning A Visit from the Goon Squad with its elegantly constructed exploration of the stories we tell to find out who we really are.
My thoughts: This is an amazingly well written book that reads like a novel and also like a collection of short stories. Each story shares certain similarities and the author/protagonist begins with a setting and story that comes full circle by the end of the book.
This book is probably best appreciated by the writing community as many references were probably lost on me. On the other hand, the overall theme and message culminated and crescendo'ed and I felt quite satisfied at the end.
More than the story, though, it is the writing that captures the reader. The message is really very excellent, too. Without giving too much away, the title sums it up with the story ultimately playing out that we are who we are even while pretending to be someone else. It is not the script we are given that makes us but who we are that dictates our script.
Not light reading but not difficult, either. My problem was the way I read it. I read it over a number of days which made me forget some of the commonalities between the scenes. I think it would be better read over a shorter amount of time.