The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

This book has been described as F. Scott Fitzgerald meets Wes Anderson, but it felt more Fitzgerald meets The Secret History maybe? Some combination of a Richard & a Henry/Francis hybrid leaks from two of the main characters.

It’s Fitzgeraldian in its sort of timeless style & charm, its propped up dream girl on a pedestal, & the muse-like creativity she inspires. It also gets kind of meta at times. You’re always aware of the story, never trusting the narrator fully. At one point there’s a story being told, inside another recapped story, in between the actual story itself, each with it’s own font to tell them apart. It reminded me of Fitzgerald’s varying chapter sections in This Side of Paradise where he goes from a play format to a poem to novelistic style. But Jansma’s approach is less a coming of age tale, & more a coming of a writer’s tale. At times fantastical, other times realistic in the sense that not all of the details matter, just the right ones do.

I loved this book way more than I expected to. The characters are flawed, but lovable. The pacing is a page turner. The style is simple, but poignant. I had never even heard of it before & now I’m going to be championing it so that I see more young people reading it. Especially young people who have the same interests I do. Interests not just in reading, but in the writers’ lives. People interested in that badass way Marlowe died, or how Kerouac never learned to drive, or whose favorite Hemingway book was A Moveable Feast because you wanted a best friend to drink with, like him & Scotty. This book is chock full little fun facts, bits & quotes, or mentions of famous writing duos. But what is fact & what is fiction? Does it matter? Where do you drawn the line between the thing & the symbolic or fabricated representations of the thing? It was almost professorial at times.

My only complaint was that it was sometimes trying a bit too hard to be clever, but most of the time it worked for me, so I didn’t mind it much. It’s a book about identity, self-awareness, & the sometimes fictionalized lifestyle of a “writer.” I definitely recommend it as a quick & fun, but still thought-provoking read.


3 thoughts on “The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

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