Tag Archives: Toby Barlow

Toby Barlow’s “Sharp Teeth”

As you might have gathered from previous blog posts, I really loved the free-verse narrative of Toby Barlow’s award winning “Sharp Teeth.”  (Thank you, Super Smart Art Girl, for lending it to me.)

This isn’t exactly a werewolf novel.  Am I a horror-hound-pedant if I point out that the monsters depicted are … weredogs?  (I actually do get annoyed when Internet commentators get too upset when the infected from “28 Days Later” are referred to as “zombies.”  Big deal.)

This is a great horror read, whether you enjoy poetry or not.  Barlow does something both creative and effective — he employs poetry to perfectly capture the fluid, stream-of-consciousness thought processes of his characters.  It works.  Think about it — do we think in complete sentences, or are thoughts more like images, phrases and feelings?

And it’s a first-rate horror yarn.  We’ve got packs of weredogs vying for control, both within their own ranks and throughout Los Angeles’ crime scene.

Barlow does a great job juggling multiple points of view, and crafting a really decent horror story.   The most ambitious plan concocted by a weredog alpha is actually pretty scary.  So, too, is a She-dog’s intimidation of a former oppressor.

Casting the main human protagonist as dogcatcher (really!) was darkly humorous.  We even have a satisfying, if brief, explanation for the monsters’ origins that totally works.

And the best part of the book is … a little hard for me to describe.  Barlow seems to perfectly capture the clanlike or packlike mentality of the weredog villains and anti-heroes.  You actually can feel for them, because he captures their feelings and point of view so capably.

The poetry itself is often quite beautiful.

This is a great read that I cheerfully recommend.


“Life was such a circle that no man could stand upon it for very long.” (Except maybe Tim Gatto.)

I might just post a picture of Randall Flagg every time a friend tells me that they are either reading or rereading Stephen King’s “The Stand.”  (This one’s for you, Tim Gatto.)

He really is the greatest villain of all time, beating out even Heath Ledger’s Joker, Hannibal Lecter, Two Face, Nina Meyers, Felix Cortez, and the Hunter Rose incarnation of Grendel.  (I’m talking about Flagg, here — not Tim.)

We know that Tim is REreading the tome (he got the extended version, good on him), because he actually read the book before I did.  As far back as 1989 or so, Tim and I scribbled quotes from the novel on our textbooks at Longwood High School.

Tim even quizzed me once in the cafeteria to test my reading retention.  I passed with flying colors:

“What’s the dog’s name?”

“Kojak.  Formerly Big Steve.”

(Do you remember that conversation in the lunchroom, Buddy?)  😀  Whatever.  It was more fun than the SAT equivalent.

Anyway, I myself have been stricken with the urge over the past year or so to revisit King’s “IT.”  I don’t know why.  I’m not afraid of clowns — at all.  Clowns are probably  the only popular horror archetype whose asses I think I could actually kick (clowns and sparkly vampires, that is).  Clowns aren’t scary … they’re really more … punchable.  Or … y’know — NOT bulletproof.  Also mimes.  All human beings, save the full sociopaths, have an active moral center in their brains, and I know that we all privately harbor the truth there that mimes DESERVE to die.  (You call yourselves ENTERTAINERS?!  F***ing SAY something!!  Hello!! Goodbye!!  Shakespeare’s sonnets!! The Gettysburg Address!!  For God’s sake, just STOP!!)

But I can’t get to “IT” just yet, because my pile of loaned or gift books is high.  There are Toby Barlow’s “Sharp Teeth” and King’s “Cycle of the Werewolf,” lent to me by Super Smart Art Girl.  Then there are a few books that Crunchy Girl gave me, about … spellcasting?  Or something?  (Is she technically a Wiccan?  We don’t know, because she equivocates on a lot of things.)

Anyway, Tim, safe journey.  And because we know the kind of guy you are, we know you’re headed to Nebraska and not Las Vegas (or CIBOLA).



“Words, those simple clumsy clay blocks …”

Perhaps being free of language is a blessing for dogs.

“Why do you say that, why do you always have to hurt me?”

Since dogs are continually surprised when

those soft and easily broken tools called words

fail them time and again. 

“I love you.”

Words, those simple clumsy clay blocks

that one hopes will support such enormous walls.

“I do, I love you.”

Words, those small weak things

that come tumbling out of men.

          —  from Toby Barlow’s “Sharp Teeth”