Category Archives: Toby Barlow

Well, Teeth, Anyway

Sam Anderson, the excellent book critic at New York magazine, likes Sharp Teeth, a verse novel about werewolves by adman and George Plimpton enthusiast Toby Barlow. At least I think Anderson likes the book. True, he closes his review with a line that’s destined for the cover of the paperback edition: “the book is a howling, hole-digging, bone-snapping, blood-lapping, intestine-gobbling success,” he writes. But his critique also points out a handful of not-minor flaws with the novel, echoing some of the problems I had with it. The verse form doesn’t seem to be doing much useful work besides giving the story a little gravitas without getting into messy matters of characterization, and its propulsive noise comes at the expense of the plot. (I’m a careful reader, I think, but I confess I lost track of who’s doing what for which pack–it’s all a big puppy pile.) And the ending, as Anderson writes, is, er, a howler:

the plots and counterplots converge in a climactic battle for the soul of Los Angeles, and (although I hesitate to call anything in a werewolf novel “implausible”) the book soars to great heights of bonkers nuttiness. By the time the S-70 Blackhawk helicopter touches down in the middle of a “shrieking, killing symphony of noise,” the book feels like it has morphed prematurely into its own screenplay.

Annals of Quixotic Ventures

Toby Barlow, author of the new novel Sharp Teeth, apparently still wants to get a statue of George Plimpton placed somewhere in Manhattan; an article in Crain’s Detroit Business notes he’s still pursuing the project in an article about his day job as an ad exec.

Barlow announced his ambition in 2005 in the Huffington Post, and while the having-a-larf, Jib-Jabby design of the official Web site suggests he’s doing all this in jest, I do think that design idea number two–showing Plimpton walking with a sheaf of papers–should seriously be avoided at all costs if the project ever moves beyond the brainstorm phase. When I was working in downtown Chicago a few years back, I’d take daily head-clearing walks down Wacker Dr., where I passed a statue of much-loved columnist and TV host Irv Kupcinet. Scott Marks‘ Emulsion Compulsion has a few photos of it, which show Kup benevolently reaching out with one arm while holding a newspaper under the other.

It’s not a bad statue. But whenever I’d walk by it I couldn’t but help but imagine a child strolling down Wacker with the parents, seeing it, and asking, “Daddy, what’s that man holding under his arm?”