The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma is sort of an autobiography of the narrator (he who shall not be named) and his friends Julian (or is it Jeffrey?) and Evelyn (the princess). Julian and the narrator meet in college in a writing seminar, and begin one of those parasitical friendships that seem all too common in literature. They each need the other to keep them sane, as neither of them is quite stable. Of course, that’s because Julian turns out to be a brilliant author, while the narrator ends up writing high schoolers’ term papers for them. Life after college doesn’t go as planned, and the book follows them as they live, fight, travel, and reunite. And learn, I was going to write, but I’m not sure how much any of them learned.
You may be able to tell from the above summary that it wasn’t the plot or even the characters that fascinated me. It was the theme of truth v. fiction. The inside cover blurb, as well as the “Author’s Note,” tell you right up front that the narrator is unreliable. How much of what he writes can you actually believe? Which events happened? What parts have been embellished beyond recognition? For Pete’s sake, what ARE the characters’ real names? Throughout the entire book, I was desperately wondering what was true and what was not – which is interesting. None of it is true, of course. It’s a novel. Fiction. So why did it matter so much to me to discover (or never discover) what was true? Good question! And this is why I need a book club to discuss this book!
I guess I must resort to my online fellow book lovers. Has anyone read The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards? What did you think of it? How much did the truth v. fiction dichotomy mess with your head?