The thirteen provocative stories in A Sharp Tooth in the Fur, Darryl Whetter's first collection, offer lots of sex, a bit of violence, and a wickedly clever exploration of human nature.
Backed into emotional corners, Darryl Whetter's men are creatures of feckless energy and intermittent idealism. Their fragile relationships break up easily, and men who don't retreat into pot-fuelled lethargy revert to ambitious self-destruction. Excellent as he is at capturing his characters' essence, Darryl Whetter is mature enough to view the men in particular, but also the women, with considerable irony. Whetter's "heroes" are often men in their twenties or thirties, men with little self-knowledge but boundless self-centredness and sexual appetite.
The event that propels several stories is the break-up of a marriage, a love affair, or a liaison of convenience. When separation doesn't inspire pot-induced lethargy, it goads these men to frenzy. Backed into emotional corners, they revert to self-destruction. Sometimes, as in the hilarious "Profanity Issues," valiantly suppressed rage, shame, and terror erupt at a weird angle, and blind loyalty to an impulsive misjudgement snowballs into weeks of public humiliation. "Non-Violent, Not OK" is an insider's view of the 2001 Quebec City riot. The central character, Chuck, is encouraged in an abstract sort of way by his lazily liberal prof, equipped by a father who thinks money fixes everything, and armed with pop-psych instructions from a bloodless riot manager. Innocent of ideology, he wanders aimlessly around in the tear gas, offering his Maalox-based eye-spray to friend and foe alike. In "A Sharp Tooth in the Fur," an ex-couple acts out a highly original sexual fantasy that's as hilarious as it is shocking. From the classroom to the laundromat, from Paris to the mosquito-infested Ontario bush, Whetter dissects a portion of human experience that has never been so deftly explored, revealing the psyche of the 20-something male.
"These devious tales are a black attack on language and lives of smartass desperation. Darryl Whetter's debut is hallucinatory, a new brain scan, an incisor nudging our jugular."
"Whetter frequently places his characters in a personal cul-de-sac, a very brave thing to do."
"Wise with heart, precise as a fang, Darryl Whetter's art reveals an intellect lipping into the feral and word-play that feels almost dangerous. A brilliant debut."
"What most arrests about this debut is the deliberate subversion of expectations. He can pin down his insights with wonderful precision, moving from dispassionate perception to an abrupt and moving burst of emotional truth."