“Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”
That maxim from Emily Dickinson becomes the controlling motif of Kristopher Jansma’s debut novel, “The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards.”
The book’s unnamed narrator says that all his stories are true, but only somewhere else. The line between fiction, deception and pure puzzlement gets repeatedly blurred as he tells his coming-of-age tale as a writer, interweaving his adventures around the globe with his friend and sometimes rival, Julian McGann, and his unrequited love interest, Evelyn, a high-society Broadway actress.
He begins his budding career as an 8-year-old, writing his first book in Terminal B of the airport where he awaits his mother’s return from her job as an airline stewardess. But that book, like every other he has completed, is lost.
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The “Unchangeable Spots of Leopards” has been praised for its inventiveness, sly sense of humor and literary allusions – to Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Salinger, among others.
Throughout his at times wild, wide-ranging storytelling, the narrator remains thoroughly unreliable. Fortunately, his sleights of hand consist mainly of amusing twists and enigmatic surprises. The “somewhere else” where his stories are true cannot be found on any traditional literary roadmap, but only in his overactive imagination.
Jansma said in an interview that “People forget that fiction can be every bit as truthful as nonfiction.” Once readers accept the premise of a novel, he said, “they will still hang on every twist, and still fall in love with the characters.”
He will be at Watermark Books & Cafe, 4701 E. Douglas, on Saturday for a reading and book signing, coinciding with the paperback release of the novel by Penguin Books. The event will begin at 5 p.m. with a ticketed meet-and-greet session. Then Jansma will read from his novel at 6 p.m. in the free, main portion of the evening.
Tickets are available at Watermark from $16 to $26. For more information, call 316-682-1181.