“A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.” Kafka.
The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma is a magical journey about writers. Our narrator is the son of a flight attendant who is left at Terminal B each day as his mom flies the skies and walks around the country serving nuts. His social skills get him to debutantes, college, and so much more. He becomes a writer cause he tells such good stories and better lies.
This is an interesting tale of two men, one gay, Julian, and a woman, Evelyn, involved with the narrator off and on while she is wooed by more moneyed and titled men. The two men are intellectual heavyweights and always devour Evelyn’s wooers.
Stories within stories are a feature of this novel as it meanders in and around the creative juices of our two writers, the narrator and Julian. We have the truth, then we have lies, then we have fiction, which is made up of both truth and lies. Truth is more elusive than the lie. The lie is easier to recognize than the truth. We know lies, but we don’t know truths. Or do we? Our lives are made up of lies and truths and the dividing lines are always blurry. The Great Imposter, Walter Mitty, and others of similar ilk are our gods. We are even told when young to aspire to greatness. It’s the lies that help us continue when those aspirations aren’t achieved or are altered. The truth is in the lies we tell and believe. It starts out this way everyday, “Good Morning, How are you?” “Fine,” is usually the lying response. We lie for convenience cause the truth is boring or not quite known.
Our narrator is filled with literary allusions. Throughout, he takes on different personas from lit and then moves on. The quotes preceding each chapter are a heads up to the persona. Tis a jolly rollercoaster ride. The fiction of a very old man is the best since it is based on so much memory and history and examples. Don’t forget about our doppelgänger. The race to find his writerly self, our narrator circumnavigates the world through Asia, Africa, Iceland, and so on and so forth. There is even a great discussion about the “Tower of Peace.” Bravo. The narrator gets lost in Iceland, like everyone does, and in his search discovers that the isle has 300,000 inhabitants that produce 1000 new novels each year. Very prolific.
Novels within novels.