Review: The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break - Steven Sherrill

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill.
Narrated by Holter Graham.

The Minotaur, long the feared antagonist of Greek Legend, has moved on in life. Though he is mostly forgot by humans, he lives on, and he finds work where he can. On this particular cigarette break, Steven Sherrill finds the Minotaur, known to his friends and acquaintances as M, sitting outside Grub's Restaurant where he is working as a short-order cook and is doing alright for himself.

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break is a slice-of-life work, sharing with us some two weeks of the Minotaur's life, just as things seem idyllic and then get turned on their head. The Minotaur hasn't been this low or this happy in a long time, and it's a sight to behold when Steven Sherrill lets us in on such a private life. The magic here is perfectly wrought, just when we think the Minotaur is the only being of his kind, there are hints at something more, things beyond what he knows or remembers, which fill out the world he lives in, making it as real as anything else.

It might surprise the reader to know that the Minotaur's tale is not cynical or ever sardonic, in fact, I'm not even sure the Minotaur knows how to be sarcastic. His tale is, ultimately one of hope. And if you get the feeling that you love yourself more after reading the Minotaur's Cigarette Break then that was the bonus side-effect of a charming novel. Steven Sherrill isn't a preacher or voyeur, he's a memoir-writer for fictional lives.

This Audiobook was a production of Neil Gaiman Presents, and as such Neil gives the introduction. He speaks briefly of his love for this novel, going further in depth about the book's narrator: Holter Graham. In researching, just a little, about this book, about the author and the narrator, I've found that many people like Holter Graham and I understand perfectly why. He's brave and uncanny, sliding from the Minotaur's epic and chaotic dreams to his narrow view of daily-life with ease and grace. He grunts for the Minotaur as though he himself had to communicate with little more than a few noises, and a single clobbered word at a time. He speaks all the Southern accents without mockery or pretense. I like Holter Graham very much, and would listen to another audiobook done by him. Indeed the quality of the production recommends to me more of the audiobooks in Neil Gaiman Presents.

I must say though, that without Steven Sherrill's poetic interludes and smooth prose, I'm sure something would have been lacking. There is an adventures quality to this tale, though it remains mostly linear, and the Minotaur doesn't really travel to any significant locations, it feels like an epic. For the Minotaur is changed, possibly more so than he has in millennia, and it's really touching to be a part of it. There's not much more to say about this book, but I hope you'll read it, I really do think any reader will enjoy it. For there is nothing exploitative, nothing extraneous, and even the graphic and possibly awkward sex scenes read well. For the fan of Greek Literature and the Magical Realism fan alike, as well as those who stick to gritty thrillers and true-crime, will enjoy this.

If you already have read it and have a comment, especially if you disagree with me, leave a comment! Otherwise, check it out from the library--I look forward to your thoughts.

256pp. John F. Blair. 1 May 2000.
(9h 4m. Neil Gaiman Presents. 25 Oct. 2011.)