Leopard Spotting: Kristopher Jansma Launch at Center for Fiction

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Kristopher Jansma’s book launch party, hosted by the Center for Fiction on Wednesday, March 20th, was surprising. Not because Jansma did or said anything outlandish, but because the prose from his debut novel, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, was straight up stellar. Jansma is a columnist here at Electric Literature, and an excerpt from his book appeared in our Recommended Reading.

1. Our man Jansma 2. Leah Miller, editor at Random House and DongWon Song of Zola Books

An inebriated fan wrote Jansma a letter , which he read, “Even though it was late and I was drunk, it wrapped me up right away… I keep waiting for interesting people [in my life] and I can’t seem to find them.” But she found some in Jansma’s book, and that meant more to him than any starred review.

Jansma introduced us to the unnamed narrator, who invents a persona at his friend Betsy’s debutante ball. “I blurted out another name. ‘Walter, Walter Hartright.’ Betsy’s face was the opposite of smiling.” Betsy continues to “un-smile” as they move through the ball, waltzing, lying, and talking about the future and her brother’s recently cracked skull. When asked about the life and role that she’s been born into, she casually replies, “It’s not awful. It’s expected. How can it be awful if it’s expected?”

1. The Center’s Sugar Vendil & composer Danielle Schwob 2. Fans Alexa Miller, Stephanie Dollan & Winnie De Moya

Eighteen years later and Walter is now Jeffery (but he’s not really Jeffery), a bestselling, award-winning author who also happens to be an old friend. Not-Jeffery is doing whatever he can to trick an old man into telling him any secrets he can steal about the real Jeffery. The hope is that Not-Jeffery can write a tell-all biography about Real-Jeffery as a last gasp of his dying literary career. This is where Jansma leaves us, with the image of a figure shuffling in tall grass.

You should check out this interview with Kris to learn about how he breaks the rules he was taught as a writer. You should also look cool and read his book before everyone else does.

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–Sean Campbell lives, writes, and occasionally updates his blog in Bed-Stuy

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