Monday, April 29, 2013

THE UNCHANGEABLE SPOTS OF LEOPARDS


Review of THE UNCHANGEABLE SPOTS OF LEOPARDS by KRISTOPHER JANSMA
(review based on advance reading copy)
While I'm convinced this book will appeal to many different types of readers, I kept thinking as I read it, "Boy, is this ever written for fellow writers." Any bibliophile will catch the countless recognizable aphorisms and themes about writers and writing. For starters, I feel like I've met the unnamed protagonist! Okay, maybe not him specifically, but he's a type, at times a mash-up of many, very real author cliches including: the tortured creative soul, the substance abusing writer, the author who blurs the line between truth and fiction, the writer who intertwines his self-worth inextricably from his writing, the artist entrapped in a dramatic doomed romance, the overall self-destructive creator, the virtuoso consumed by a competitive friendship, the writer who can’t write fiction but only fictionalized memoir, etc.

At first, the chapters read more like individual essays than a novel, each chapter a specific excerpt from the narrator's life. Oh, and did I mention that, in addition to being a nameless protagonist, he's quite the unreliable narrator? I went into the novel buying everything the narrator told me until his own work appeared within the story. To say his fiction is heavily influenced by his own life is an understatement. Wait. Unless his life, or his perception of his life, is actually heavily influenced by his fiction. That becomes the head-scratching question that propels the book as our narrator's "true" stories become more outlandish and he even changes the names of supposed "real" people.

The stories within a story element impressed me, especially the fact that Jansma not only wrote this amazing book but includes excepts of the narrator's writing as well, excerpts that do indeed have their own style. While I'm tempted to focus on how much writers will love this book, that's excluding all the bibliophiles who don't write not to mention anyone who likes a good enigma of a story.

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