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.

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