OK, we admit it: We're sorry we missed the chance to pour praise on Toby Barlow's book a year ago with the rest of the literary elite. It's just that an ultraviolent epic poem about sex, drugs and werewolves set in modern Los Angeles -- think Homer's "Odyssey" as scripted by Anne Rice, with a whiff of Elmore Leonard -- didn't strike us as standard CMO fare at the time. And it's not.
But as "Sharp Teeth" trots out a fresh set of pawprints in paperback this month, we give kudos to Barlow, a creative director at JWT Detroit by day, for serving up such fun, twisted irreverence in an otherwise bleak reality.
Barlow has said he chose free verse in part to appeal to the ADD generation; sentences are short and punctuation is rare. In its review, New York magazine asks whether the first-time author's "gimmicky" exercise is redeemable as functional poetry: "Literature and advertising, after all, have a long history of cross-pollination." It's true that Barlow packs a sensory punch, from the blood-red cover to the gory couplets of bone-crunching bliss that make this a must-read for comic-book fan and copywriter alike. By the time you've surrendered to marrow-sucking she-wolves and the dogcatchers who love them, you're a long way from passing judgment.
Read an excerpt from Toby Barlow's "Sharp Teeth" on NPR.