Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break - Review

Idgie Says:
This book was originally published in 2000, but is back in print as a follow up will be available this month (Info on that below).

I found this to be  a surreal story in that the entire book is pretty much about every day events, trying to muddle through life,  it just happens to have these events happening to a very old Minotaur who can barely speak and works as a line cook in a run down restaurant.  He deals with the everyday issues of working in a restaurant, along with odd special issues such as he has to look sideways to make crepes because his snout blocks his view. 

The descriptive writing is excellent in this novel and you really feel the sense of place.  

Oddly enough, what with the mythical creature and such, it's a very human story. 


Book Description

Original Hardback Publication 2000
Trade Paperback: 2016
John F. Blair, Publisher

In this debut novel, Steven Sherrill follows the minotaur -- a mythological creature with the body of a man and the head of a bull -- through two weeks of his life as a cook at a steakhouse in the contemporary American South. Once a devourer of virgins and lads, time and circumstances have diminished his power considerably.

Through the Minotaur's experiences, Sherrill spotlights the alienation and loneliness that are part of our society. During the two-week period we follow the Minotaur, we meet memorable characters along the way from his co-workers at the restaurant to his neighbors at the trailer park. Sherrill also manages to make mundane doings -- kitchen work, car repair, personal grooming -- interesting and even exciting. By the end of the novel, the reader is pulling for the Minotaur to find the brief moment of happiness that he has sought for so many centuries.

 Five thousand years out of the Labyrinth that held him captive, and as many years beyond the dubious bargain that set him free, the Minotaur finds himself struggling to negotiate the American South with the body of a man and the head of a bull.

The Minotaur tries to balance the past, the present, and a looming future from behind the cooks' line at Grub's Rib, where his coworkers know both his skill with a chef's knife and the sometimes dangerous nature of his horns. At Lucky-U Mobile Estates, the Minotaur lives in a boat-shaped trailer and shares with his neighbors an appreciation for a quiet lifestyle and a respect for auto repairs.

Over the duration of his life, the Minotaur has roamed the earth and seen much, yet he has reaped little wisdom to help him navigate the complex geography of human relationships. Inarticulate, socially inept, tolerated at best by modern folk, he has been reduced from a monster with an appetite for human flesh to a broken creature with very human needs.

During the two weeks covered by the novel, the delicate balance tips, and the Minotaur finds his life dissolving into chaos while he simultaneously awakens to the possibility of love.

Among the characters peopling the Minotaur's world are Kelly, whose own debilitating flaw allows her affinity for the Minotaur; Sweeny, the rough-hewn but kindly proprietor of the mobile-home park; and Buddy, Sweeny's unforgettable, unlucky, randy bulldog.

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break is an effortless blend of the mundane and the mythic, a unique world in which kitchen work becomes high drama and meetings between legendary creatures almost pass notice. But strangest of all in Steven Sherrill's debut novel, everything seems to make perfect sense.


The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time
John F. Blair
Sept. 2016

 Sixteen years have passed since Steven Sherrill first introduced us to “M,” the selfsame Minotaur from Greek mythology, transplanted to the modern American South, in the critically acclaimed The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break.  M has moved north now, from a life of kitchens and trailer parks, to that of Civil War re-enactor at a run-down living history park in the dying blue-collar rustbelt of central Pennsylvania. Though he dies now, in uniform, on a regular basis, M's world, his daily struggles, remain unchanged. Isolation. Loneliness. Other-ness.

Shepherded, cared for, by the Guptas, the immigrant family who runs the motel where he lives, outsiders in their own right, and tolerated by his neighbors, by most of his coworkers at Old Scald Village, but tormented by a few, M wants only to find love and understanding. The serendipitous arrival of Holly and her damaged brother, halted on their own journey of loss, stirs hope in the Minotaur’s life. As their paths overlap we find ourselves rooting for the old bull as he stumbles toward a real live human relationship.