Monday, November 30, 2009

Colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado

All good things come to an end. As this is my final night here in Spain, and I have no immediate plans to return, this is probably the last post I shall make on this blog. No two ways about it, I've had a lot of fun since the adventure started way back in March 2007. But, some 650 posts later, it's time to call it a day.

Upon my return to San Francisco, I plan to apply for U.S. citizenship. The process takes an indefinite length of time, but probably at least 3 to 4 months. During that time I will not be allowed to leave the U.S. My plans beyond that are fluid, but will almost certainly not include a return to Spain in any kind of visiting academic capacity. For various reasons, my contacts with the two local universities in Madrid made that a less appealing possibility, primarily because I consider that one of the strengths I have to offer is the ability to excel in interdisciplinary work, and here in Spain, well - basically, they not only do not do "interdisciplinary" well, they just don't seem to do it at all. Teaching a basic intro statistics course to undergraduates while trapped in an isolated ghetto of statisticians who have little or no contact with their colleagues in the medical school a few buildings away is something that frankly just does not interest me in the slightest.

To all the visitors to this blog - thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.

Adiós. Fue un gran placer.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Book Review: "Sharp Teeth" by Toby Barlow

Los Angeles has always disturbed me. All that sunshine. Those über-toned bodies. Packs of werewolves roaming the canyons and arroyos. It's enough to make any catlover nervous.

In this awesome, exuberant, first book Toby Barlow strips away the city's thin veneer of civilization and lays bare its raw, violent, lycanthropic underbelly. It's the cross-species love story between dogcatcher Anthony and his damaged werewolf lover, which unfolds against a backdrop of drugs, murder, revenge, and the battle for pack dominance. It's noir, funny, riveting, tender, completely over the top, and by rights it shouldn't work at all. But it does - it's completely addictive and unexpectedly moving.

Part of its power is a consequence of Barlow's choice to write it in free verse. The resulting rhythm give the whole story a driving momentum that keeps the reader riveted -- I read the whole book in two sittings. The plot, which seemed inextricably complicated at the halfway mark, is resolved neatly by the end, though I do feel that I need to give the book a second reading to figure out the various strands.

The sheer momentum built up by Barlow's writing works against a careful reading, so I anticipate that a second reading will bring further rewards. Depending on how my second reading goes, I may yet have to give this most excellent book a fifth star.

If you have time for only one lycanthropic love story this year, then look no farther than "Sharp Teeth". Toby Barlow can be proud of this totally impressive debut.