Toby Barlow

"Sharp Teeth"

(Reviewed by Amanda Richards APR 16, 2008)

A room is, after all, a place where you hide from the wolves. That’s all any room is. (Jean Rhys)

This debut novel at first seems strange,
difficult to take the first bite.

But then, the story gets going,
and you forget that it’s written in free verse
- except that it doesn’t rhyme,
and you know how I am about rhymes.

But still,

What’s not to like about a story
About werewolves?
or was it weredogs?
Prowling the streets of LA,
changing at will,
killing and devouring without leaving a trace
- sometimes not even bloody tissue,
licking the ground Ajax clean.
Yet being civilized enough to know
that the most important dog in the pack
is the b!tch

Three packs,
one led by a lawyer at first,
who gets outmaneuvered
in an ironic kind of way
and forced to hide in the guise of woman’s best friend
until he can regroup and reclaim,
and remark his territory.
But Lark has a plan
to infiltrate and conquer

It’s also about Anthony the dogcatcher.
Who doesn’t really want to be like the rest
- of dogcatchers, that is
“Perhaps over time he will become like them
with their permanent stains and bitter dispositions.
But Christ almighty, he thinks,
I hope not”
Anthony feeds the dogs tacos
that he can’t afford
and one day he falls in love

Then there’s the cop
Investigating missing people
and dogs
and bloody trails of big red prints

These dogs don’t play poker
preferring the game of bridge
especially Cutter and Blue, who have a knack for the game.
They follow Lark and the Ukan way,
but things get complicated when their fellow bridge players
turn out to be quite different than they seem
and there’s also the new pack…
“The new pack follows a different form,
nobody has a name for it,
but it’s a rough way of life.”

Yet compelling
This book reads like a graphic novel
in staccato bursts of
blood, gore, gristle
…and doggie dreams.
Dark, brutal
and memorable
especially on debut.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 61 reviews

Chapter Excerpt of Sharp Teeth at NPR org

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About the Author:

Toby BarlowToby Barlow is executive creative director at the advertising agency JWT in Detroit and a contributor to the literary magazine n+1 and the Huffington Post. He splits his time between Detroit, Michigan, and New York City. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014