The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break: A Novel

  • by Steven Sherrill
  • Narrated by Holter Graham
  • 9 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), cast the narrator and produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.
A few words from Neil on The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break: "When Steve and I talked about the ideal voice for M, he suggested Holter Graham….because 'Holter’s handling of the Minotaur’s grunt was PERFECT. Exactly what I heard in my head.'"
Five thousand years out of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur finds himself in the American South, living in a trailer park and working as a line cook at a steakhouse. No longer a devourer of human flesh, the Minotaur is a socially inept, lonely creature with very human needs. But over a two-week period, as his life dissolves into chaos, this broken and alienated immortal awakens to the possibility for happiness and to the capacity for love. "Sherrill also insinuates other mythological beasts - the Hermaphroditus, the Medusa - into the story, suggesting how the Southern landscape is shadowed by these myths. The plot centers around the Minotaur's feelings for Kelly, a waitress who is prone to epileptic fits. Does she reciprocate his affections? As the reader might expect, the course of interspecies love never does run smooth." (Publishers Weekly) Steven Sherrill created the artwork used for the audiobook edition of The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break.

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THE, THE, THE, THE, THE, THE MINOTAUR

If living 5000 years does this to your personality, then kill me at 80 please. THE Minotaur has lived 5000 years, yet he is inept and insecure in all things, except mechanical. Forget the title, he does not smoke. He does not drink, swim, talk or have fun. He is Anal.

The plot is, he works in a restaurant, lives in a trailer park, helps a guy move and that is it. I worked in a restaurant as a kid, you worked in a restaurant as a kid, 95% of the people who read this have worked in a restaurant. The descriptive, lengthy restaurant tripe might be interesting to rich academia types, but not the average reader. Even Koontz did not go to this length with his fry cook, Odd.

Through out the book he is consistently referred to as THE Minotaur. THE writer probably had some deep reason for not giving THE Minotaur a name. THE result for THE reader is that it is hard to empathize with THE Minotaur, since he as no name and in the English language we put THE in front of inanimate objects. His co-workers do call him M, he has no friends. Take THE Minotaur out of the book and you cut it in half. I wanted to give up on this book several times, but kept with it. Despite the lack of story, I did start to feel some empathy for the THE Minotaur toward the last part of the book. If my constant use of THE is irritating you then you do not want to listen to this book.

There are characters here from "My Name is Earl", but not well developed. The Minotaur is so un-minotaur like it is unbelievable. His hips and legs are as skinny as a girl. Even obese people have large legs and hips, from carry the load of there upper body. He has no balls. A bull with no balls. He is one sad bull and you will be sad if you expect too much from this.

I gave it three stars as the writer does show promise in his prose. He has an imagination, he just needs to think things through or maybe not think so much.
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- Jim "The Impatient"

Even the monstrous among us...

The Minotaur in Steven Sherrill's novel is a being I can relate to. He has a hulking frame that tends to bump into things, is quiet and introspective, feels like a bit of an outsider in the ordinary human world, and doesn't always know the best way to verbalize his thoughts, so he often just says "mmmmm".

Unlike me, though, he's the very same creature from ancient myth. He's lived so long, his monstrous past has mostly worn away, leaving only a few dim memories. The same is true of his ability to provoke a reaction from the humans around him. To the denizens of the North Carolina trailer park where he now lives, or the greasy spoon restaurant where he works as a short order cook at, he's a slight oddity, but, really, no more so than the girl who suffers from epilepsy or the gay waiter who's also a Civil War reenactor. The Minotaur leads a fairly unremarkable life. He worries about losing his job, feels uncomfortable around dogs and electronics, likes to repair cars, and has trouble making long-term plans.

There's not much that "happens" in this novel, which has the feel of one those subdued indie films in which the characters carry out their normal lives in a way meant to show the profundity of everyday existence. Conventional urban fantasy, this is not. The writing is quite good at capturing the feel and character of the South, though, and I enjoyed the character study of the Minotaur, called "M" by others, who yearns for connection, or at least a place in the world, but doesn't know how to fit in. He becomes, variously, an observer of human nature, a sounding board for other people's feelings and worries, an object of antagonism, and a lover.

Of course, the story isn't really "about" the Minotaur, but about the way the primal permeates life, sometimes getting lost underneath it, sometimes boiling to the surface at odd moments. Add someone a little more primal than everyone else to small, backwater town, and the dynamic shifts subtly. I enjoyed the nuance with which Sherrill weaves in myth, religion, humor, absurdity, sexuality, the innocent directness of children, and human pathos (e.g. the death and subsequent "unburial" of Sweeney's dog).

Admittedly, this is a slow, languid cloudy day book (though everything comes together in a tense conclusion) and not everyone will enjoy it. I actually quit at several points to listen to other books, but found myself drawn back again. Some credit surely goes to audiobook narrator Holter Graham's excellent reading. He grasps the text well, gives different inflections to different characters, and injects the right notes into the Minotaur's many "hmmms" and "mmmms". He even does rather well with the "dialogue" from an overheard porn movie.

Another win from the Neil Gaiman Presents project, though this one more for tone and writing than storytelling.
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- Ryan

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-25-2011
  • Publisher: Neil Gaiman Presents