Winner of the Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award
Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award
"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—from the author of Why We Came to the City
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, Kristopher Jansma’s hopelessly unreliable—yet hopelessly earnest—narrator will be haunted by the success of his greatest friend and literary rival, the brilliant Julian McGann, and endlessly enamored with Evelyn, the green-eyed girl who got away. A profound exploration of the nature of truth and storytelling, this delightful picaresque tale heralds Jansma as a bold, new American voice.
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.