The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards
By Kristopher Jansma
Viking, 2013. 254 pgs. Fiction
This is a story about a story about a story. Jansma, in his debut novel creates a stunning literary work that layers truth and fiction in surprising and new ways steeped in the style, tones, and tropes of the great authors of the literary tradition. At one moment he is Hemingway, the next Ibsen, and then Tolstoy. His prose is detailed and nuanced, his characters infuriating and compelling, his plot a cipher leading to interesting and though provoking questions.
To try to describe the plot would be confusing both for me and for you as Jansma weaves in and out of multiple realities and it is difficult as the reader to discern and remember which details belong in which reality. This maneuvering is intentional and serves to illustrate the larger theme and question of the book- what is truth and what is fiction? What makes us ourselves? Can we change our spots? 'Tell the truth but tell it slant' said Dickenson, and Jansma does so with great skill. ZB