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The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  3,392 Ratings  ·  583 Reviews
"F. Scott Fitzgerald meets Wes Anderson" (The Village Voice) in this inventive and witty debut about a young man’s quest to become a writer and the misadventures in life and love that take him around the globe

As early as he can remember, the narrator of this remarkable novel has wanted to become a writer. From the jazz clubs of Manhattan to the villages of Sri Lanka, Kris
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 25th 2014 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Grace I listened to it! As someone who has a hard time engaging with audio books/staying awake in general, I found it to be very captivating and enjoyable.…moreI listened to it! As someone who has a hard time engaging with audio books/staying awake in general, I found it to be very captivating and enjoyable. Did you like it? (less)

Community Reviews

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Apr 03, 2013 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

But without fingers I couldn't hit the keys on the typewriter or grip a pen. At first I think this may be some sort of sweet relief--a reprieve from writing the same scene over and over. But the writing over and over again isn't a sign of madness. It's the only thing letting the madness out.

This is a first time novel about a writer who has yet to be published.

A treacherous genre filled with many books that I think appeal to people younger than myself, and which once appealed to me more than the
Jan 17, 2015 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”

That quote from Emily Dickinson is the driving force behind this masterful, creative, spectacular debut novel from Kristopher Jansma, and he never lets you forget that, even for a second.

It’s divided into two halves: What Was Lost and What Was Found, each of which is structured as a sort of collection of interconnected stories. While reading the first half, I was struck by how realistic it felt; I assumed that this was surely an almost-true account of Jans
The prose in The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is exceptional, and often exquisite. The composition is reckless, daring, innovative, exuberant and self-assured. It's a book that I should have loved, but my heart felt atrophied from lack of use. It almost seemed as though the book was so keyed into its own cleverness that it neglected to care about the characters.

I think my desire for some emotional connection is behind my impression that the writing was uneven. There were moments where I couldn
Apr 19, 2013 Kats rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
GoodReads is asking me "What did you think?" about the book. Well, I wish I could answer that coherently, but The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is so different to anything I've read in a long time that I don't know what to think. My mind boggles.... days after finishing it, I still can't work out what is really is about! Is it about a writer's journey to publishing his first book? Some tongue-in-cheek memoirs by the author? Is it magical realism where nothing is what you think it is and everyon ...more
Apr 20, 2013 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Somewhere in this empty space, between my lies and fictions, is the truth.” With those bold and arresting words, Kristopher Jansma – certainly one of the most inventive and imaginative writers I’ve read lately – launches his ode to storytelling.

He starts with a basic template that most of us have read in various iterations: an aspiring boy from a not-so-great background falls under the spell of a far more worldly and insanely talented friend. Both would-be writers identify each other as worthy
Susan Tunis
Apr 06, 2013 Susan Tunis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not all the leopards are metaphorical…

Look, I won’t claim there aren’t disappointments, but after decades of selecting books for myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at guessing what I’m going to like. And from the first time I heard even the briefest description of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, it was high on my must-read list. I mean, seriously, the title alone--somehow it just spoke to me. And I wasn’t disappointed.

But the odd thing is, when I read the jacket copy, the part that I really hon
Feb 18, 2013 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book must be so satisfying for any novelist who has ever been asked, "So what was truth and what was fiction?" Kris Jansma is clearly having so much fun playing with storytelling as his unnamed and unabashedly unreliable narrator baldly lies his way around the globe, trying on new identities at every stop. The fun is infectious, even though the characters are often quite miserable. In one chapter there is a novel within a story within the novel. Or something like that. After a while, you'll ...more
Mackenzie Brooks
If Jansma meant for this book to satirize itself, then it's funny. If not, then it's not very good. It's a book about writers struggling to write well by an author who is struggling to write well. He clearly wanted to do something clever and layered, all things I enjoy, but it was not done well. It felt like it was written by a precocious teenager who might eventually be a good writer but was not there yet.
Larry Hoffer
"These stories are all true, but only somewhere else."

So says the narrator of Kristopher Jansma's appealing yet frustrating novel-in-stories, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards. From an early age, he wanted to be a writer, and he simply can't stop reinventing himself and the situations around him. As a teenager in North Carolina, he introduces himself as a character in a Wilkie Collins novel when pressed into service escorting a girl he is enamored with to her debutante ball. In college in the B
Aug 04, 2013 Alena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book!

I can see its flaws -- a writer writing about a writer struggling with writing -- but I love it despite its hyper "self-awareness." I appreciated the spiraling stories within stories that Jansma creates and even the moments of confusion as names and identities constantly switch. It's a smart thought-provoking novel about storytelling, identity, love and literature.

This is the second book I've read recently in which the author points out that the best stories start in the middle
Oct 07, 2016 Teresinha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: česky, moje
Tak jo, tuhle knihu jsem dočetla tak před měsícem, přinejmenším... Zkrátka mám za sebou pár chaotických týdnů, ale teď snad bude víc času na čtení a dumání o knihách a moc se na to těším :)

Zatím k tomuhle příběhu řeknu, že se mi líbíl fakt moc. Uvažovala jsem i o pěti hvězdičkách, ale zatím takhle. Až o něm sepíšu článek na blog, možná hodnocení ještě poupravím. Tak snad brzo!
Another in a recent series of audiobooks that can best be described as "exhausting" I'm afraid, with a plot that careens and lurches like a pinball game. Eduardo Ballerini's excellent audio narration helped with my resolve to get to the end, which was sorely tempted around halfway through, with the trio dissolved, and the self-identified unreliable narrator going his own way. Jeffrey (a/k/a Julian) was almost endearing, reminding me a bit of Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited, so my flagging inte ...more
Bennett Gavrish
Mar 25, 2013 Bennett Gavrish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Note: Viking Press provided me with a copy of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards for the purpose of this review.)

Grade: B+

L/C Ratio: 90% Literary / 10% Commercial

Thematic Breakdown:
30% - Writing
25% - Friendship
20% - Love
15% - Identity
10% - World travels

Addictiveness: Medium
Movie Potential: 1 Thumb Down
Re-readability: Medium

As Kristopher Jansma proves in his debut novel, an experimental piece of fiction doesn't always have to feel like an experiment to its reader. The Unchangeable Spots of Leopa
Mar 30, 2013 Mac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards hits a reading sweet spot for me. It's a concise, well told narrative, a series of short stories that add up to a complete novel, all overlaid with a postmodern evaluation of the nature of fiction. So the book gets off to a great start. And the opening chapters/stories deliver on the initial promise. They are compelling, touching, and memorable, reminiscent of Michael Chabon's initial work.

However, as the book progresses, I felt a loss of momentum, and I had mo
Apr 04, 2013 Cheryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to figure out how I wanted to start this review. This is only because I am torn about this book. On one hand I like that Mr. Jansma played on the idea of deception and liars. Each chapter was like a mini story that just added and built onto the next story. Kind of like a movie within a movie. Also, I liked all the different places that I traveled in this book. However on the flip side of this book, I never really connected with the characters. For the same factor as to why I ...more
Romanzo originale e a tratti divertente sul rapporto tra due scrittori conosciutisi all’università, in cui realtà e finzione si mischiano continuamente. Godibile.
Nov 24, 2014 K. rated it it was amazing
If you like books about books and meta-level fiction, you will love Jansma's novel.

And it's not so high concept that it's difficult to read. It's actually quite fun.

The protagonist of Jansma's novel is an aspiring writer, and as such he is consumed with the task of writing and its affiliated tasks: reading great works of literature, having adventures so that he can "write what he knows," workshopping with other writers, taking creative writing classes, writing drafts, revising and despairing t
Linda Lackey
Jun 12, 2013 Linda Lackey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rudyard Kipling’s How the Leopard Got its Spots is one of many pieces of literature that The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards alludes to. Perhaps the most telling allusion is the line from an Emily Dickinson poem – “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant”, since Jansma’s book is a series of slanted tales told by a highly unreliable narrator. The fact that you never really even know this narrator’s name enhances the colorful telling of the chapters that read more like individual interconnected tales ...more
Mar 21, 2013 J.A. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to J.A. by: Eric Boss
This is highly addictive for fans of literary fiction; it’s lit fic crack! I sped through it in a day and a half, but I absorbed it too quickly the first time so I had to start over and re-read it at a slower pace. As the unnamed narrator describes the work of another writer:
“It is the rare sort of book that resembles nothing else and yet somehow seems intensely familiar. From the first line you feel your own heart begin to beat differently. Once it’s over you want to begin it again.”

That is pre
Apr 14, 2013 Shawn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I almost rated this one star, and that was factoring in my Debut Star Bump. I decided to go with two because, in contemplating this, I believe Jansma is probably a better author than this book suggests. Also, because I read an advance, I wanted to allow for the fact that, perhaps, there was a final rewrite that made this better than what I read.
This felt as if the author was trying way to hard to be clever, inventive and witty..., as if he could just see the reviews saying "... witty", "inventi
Apr 24, 2013 Melissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-favorites
Amazing book. First off: the title is kickass. I wish more writers would pay attention to the title, that and the cover art. Just like first impressions of people, that is the first impression of the book and yes, it matters. So first, I fell in love with the title and cover art - and the symbolism behind it. Readers more sophisticated than I can explain each incidence of the leopard popping up - leopard skin hat, a country where a leopard was mistaken for a tiger, the leopard biting him on the ...more
Nicole R
Have you ever "embellished" a story to make it more exciting? You play it off as truth time after time. I admit it, I have (don't judge). I love to tell stories about awkward things that happen to me - and A LOT of awkward things happen to me. What really makes an entertaining story is the small details. But who really remembers them? So, I embellish my stories. Little white lies littered among the truths to entice laughs and imbue irony. Sometimes, I tell them so often that I swear I really did ...more
I am torn about how to rate this book....on the one hand the writing is so so good. He makes it look effortless and brilliant and roughly the first half of the book is about as good as anything I've read, certainly in recent memory, Pulitzer material. But the book for me really hits a snag in tempo as well as stylistically from the "grand canyon" story onward. What started out as incredibly original and inventive writing, and somehow at the same time seems already a classic becomes by the books ...more
Dec 04, 2013 McKenzie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The unnamed narrator of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is an aspiring fiction writer, who views the world for its literary possibilities, instead of its reality. Debut author Kristopher Jansma masterfully plays with his audience throughout this novel, teasing readers by blurring the lines between truth and lies, plagiarism and acting, and fiction and life. The narrator claims his mantra is the line "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant" from Emily Dickinson's poem, but I think the real inspi ...more
Apr 10, 2016 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Completely unpredictable in every way - the narrator re-invents himself at every turn. As he globe trots, he sheds his skin and becomes someone new - but even with these 180* shifts of location and characters, it keeps FLOWING and the reader doesn't miss a beat. How is this possible? Jansma is something special.

The book's lyrical prose and quotable passages made me giddy... like *STOP IN YOUR TRACKS and read again and smile and repeat from *.

Did this constant re-invention start as a teenager in
Kasa Cotugno
This book defies description. Picaresque in style, the "Talented Mr. Who?" traverses the world. Kristopher Jansma is a busy young man -- not only able to write his first novel, but carry a full teacher's load at SUNY. This debut novel has been described as a funhouse of a book, referencing such authors as the reader recalls. For me, the two biggest influences seem to have been Italo Cavino (for the interbedded, nested stories) and Martin Amis (specifically, The Information). At one point, a ...more
Jan 15, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazingly well written book that reads like a novel and also like a collection of short stories. Each story shares certain similarities and the author/protagonist begins with a setting and story that comes full circle by the end of the book.

This book is probably best appreciated by the writing community as many references were probably lost on me. On the other hand, the overall theme and message culminated and crescendo'ed and I felt quite satisfied at the end.

More than the story, th
Terri Jacobson
Apr 28, 2013 Terri Jacobson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Marvelous novel about a writer and his friends told in the form of chapters that are almost short stories. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say the writing is excellent, the characters are vibrant, the dialogue is smart and funny, and the whole book is a great reading experience. Loved it.
Jul 02, 2016 Kate rated it it was amazing
F-ing Brilliant. If you love books, if you love puzzles, read this book!! It's like every line is a clue. If I could have a few minutes with Mr. Jansma, I would insist on him telling me the real ending. I have my suspicions, but who knows for sure?!
Dec 06, 2015 Quanti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Metaromán. Možná meta-meta-metaromán. Od toho konce jsem vzhledem k těm všem haluzím v průběhu (nechci spoilovat) čekala víc, přišel mi ten potenciál takový nevyužitý, ale sám o sobě hodně dobrý, vtipný. Tři a půl hvězdičky (doporučuju lidem, kterým se líbila Principálova dcera).
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My second novel "Why We Came to the City" has been called "a beautiful, sprawling and generous book [..] a heartfelt novel, tender and painful and cathartic all at once.” (Michael Schaub, NPR Books) and a "wonderful, unforgettable novel [...] which leads to profound questions about causes and what comes next.“ (Kit Reed, The Miami Herald).

My previous novel, "The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards" has
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“Does it sting like this because I've been robbed or because it was never mine to steal? ... Maybe an idea, like love, cannot ever be stolen away, just as it cannot ever have belonged to me and only me.” 11 likes
“She’s just this character to you. Both of us are! And we always have been. You don’t know what goes on in our heads. You don’t know where we come from or who we are . . . Can you even tell the difference anymore between what you’ve written about her and who she really, truly is?” 4 likes
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