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*Starred Review* Online columnist Jansma performs a veritable circus act here, cramming his first novel with literary allusions until it's like a small car stuffed with clowns, who then first burst forth to cavort and turn balloons into poodles. This canny, seductive, and utterly transfixing tale about the magic of storytelling and the misery of writing is told by an itinerant, chameleonic writer who calls himself Nobody. The fatherless son of a flight attendant, he relies on and cares for his rich, gay, and unstable best friend, who turns out to be a truly gifted novelist, and falls hopelessly in love with an actress so beautiful that princes propose marriage. Like a magician pulling a seemingly endless string of colorful scarves from a hat, Jansma streams stories-within-stories-within-stories, each a diabolically clever homage. As Nobody juggles false identities and survives near-catastrophes in New York, Las Vegas, Iceland, Luxembourg, Dubai, Ghana, and Sri Lanka, readers will detect riffs on Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Truman Capote, Bob Dylan, Tolstoy, Salinger, Borges, Kipling, and many more. To add to the droll, romantic, and boldly creative sorcery of it all, Jansma riffs on plagiarism as the new American art form and ponders the paradoxes of literary fame. A first novel with the strength and agility of a great cat leaping through rings of fire.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Jansma's arresting debut follows the real and imaginary tales of an unnamed narrator whose ambition skyrockets after meeting the wealthy and gifted writer Julian McGann in college. The young men become friends based on a fierce competition to outwrite each other. "Somewhere, once, I read that the only mind a writer can't see into is the mind of a better writer. When I watched Julian watching the world, I was always reminded of this." Along the way, the narrator falls desperately in love with Julian's beguiling friend Evelyn, and in the run-up to her wedding begins sleeping with her. As Julian's writing attracts the kind of fervor that happens rarely, the narrator plods along in the man's overpowering shadow until his own behavior, and what it brings out of Julian, wrench the two friends apart. While keeping an eye on Julian from afar, the narrator struggles to develop himself as a separate individual from Julian, an effort that seems all but impossible as the two men would have been formless without the impact of each other. Jansma's characters deftly explore the blurred lines between fact and fiction, discovering the shades of truth that lie in between. Agent: Chelsea Lindman, the Nicholas Ellison Agency. (Mar. 25) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The turbulent relationship among three college friends is the raw material of this captivating first novel. While attending a small Massachusetts college, the North Carolina-born narrator, an aspiring writer, meets the talented but troubled Julian, also a writer, and they quickly become friends as well as artistic competitors. Julian introduces him to the mercurial Evelyn, a beautiful, young New York actress, and the two become lovers. After college, all paths lead to New York City; later, there's an eventful trip to the Grand Canyon for Evelyn's wedding and a decade's parting. The unnamed narrator then embarks on travels through Asia, Africa, and finally to an Icelandic writers' colony where he reunites with Julian. VERDICT Jansma explores how events are shaped into a work of fiction while also showing how we weave the reality of our lives into our own personal narratives. Ultimately, he's concerned with discovering the truth of the self that lies both within and beneath that narrative. A smart, searching debut about art and identity. [See Prepub Alert, 9/24/12.]-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.