29 January 2016

Books: The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards By Kristopher Jansma (2013)

One of things that I lost with Borders Books closing was discovering new authors. Sure, B&N has an area just for that, though it’s always set away from New Releases, which seems to me to bit short-sighted. Yes, it is hard (very hard) to get readers to try new authors. Most are very set in their ways, only wanting to read what’s on the best-seller list and their regular cadre of predictable tales that are never that complex, and are all solved by the final page. There are also some authors, say like Gillian Flynn, whom broke out of the basement of hidden talent with Gone Girl. While I’ve yet to read that book, I read her two previous ones and found them to be disturbing, nihilistic, and (frequently) unbelievable. But I will admit that those two books are worthy reads mostly because they’re dark, filled with unrepentant and unlikable characters. It takes a great talent to write books that feature these people, because the reader wants and needs a creature to identify with.

Still, Twitter has been my salvation though. After Borders closed, I began to subscribing to a lot of publishers and writers. So while many of my friends and families are following celebrities (well mine are writers), along with family and friends, I went with Twitter page of almost every publisher I can follow.

That, in a way, is how I found this book, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards. Someone had done a review of the writer’s newest book, Why We Came to the City, and posted a link to his page. That story got re-Twitted by the publisher and then the author. I read that review and so I decided to find the authors first book.

There is a saying in writing: write what you know. So it’s not a huge surprise when authors create characters that are also writers. In his debut novel, Kristopher Jansma tells a sort of Russian nesting doll tale of two long-time writer friends, whom are also each other’s chief rivals. There is also Evelyn, whom our unnamed narrator harbors an unrequited love for.  The tale, which spans more than decade, has our hopelessly unreliable speaker travel “from the jazz clubs of Manhattan to the villages of Sri Lanka”, always, it seems never far away from the gravitational pull of his said rival, one Julian McGann. The narrator lives in a world built on house of cards, unraveling a web of fact and fiction wherever he goes, quickly assuming new identities and telling stories and then shedding them as fast as waiters in a restaurant come and go. It has an unusual structure, reading like set of short stories along with a novella, more than a true novel, which then kind of morphs into a short story that exists within the novella within a novel (it sounds more complicated than it is). 

All of this, I guess, can considered a contrivance, as the narrator does have a tendency to run into people all over the world whom are somehow connected to McGann. But the prose is so great, with beautifully constructed sentences, and thoughts, and the dry, disarming humor so much fun, you can forgive the writer for using such a device.

It’s a strong first novel that now wants me to read his newest book. And thanks to Twitter, I hope to find a whole horde of new writers penning glorious and thoughtful literature.

No comments: