The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time
John F. Blair, Publisher
6 x 9
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.
“The Minotaur, the half-man, half-bull supposedly slain by Theseus in the labyrinth, is actually working as a cook at Grub's Rib in a small town in North Carolina. Or so Sherrill conjectures in his clever debut novel, which thrusts the fabulous beast into the kitchen sink realism of 1990s America. In Sherrill's bold imagination, the Minotaur is no longer angry or ferocious, having been worn down by 3,000 years of history. Although people are often startled by his horns, the blue-collar world in which he now exists quickly adjusts to his presence. Sweeny, the owner of the Lucky-U trailer park where the Minotaur lives, employs him part-time to repair cars. The Minotaur spends his free hours watching his neighbors, among whom are an amateur muscle freak, Hank, and his sexy wife, Josie. At the restaurant, the other employees accept the Minotaur as he is, except for Shane and Mike, a duo of obnoxious young waiters who also razz David, the restaurant manager, for being gay. The Minotaur is sometimes hindered physically in the human world; his eyes, for example, are separated so broadly by his snout that he has to cock his head to one side to really look at something. 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. Sherrill's narrative, with its dreamlike pace, shows myth coexisting with reality as naturally as it does in ancient epic.”
“The Minotaur, having endured 5000 years of immortality, is currently living in a trailer park in the Deep South, working as a line cook in a restaurant. His appearance is more monstrous than his behavior, which is more humane than that of most of his co-workers. Coping within the limitations imposed on his existence--horns that are deadly, inarticulateness, a disproportionate body ill-adapted for clothes--the Minotaur has learned to sew and become an expert auto mechanic and a superb cook. It is dealing with people that poses the greatest difficulties. When love becomes a possibility, he must negotiate a path, threatened by the malevolence of the restaurant waiters and supported by the kindness of his landlord and friends. First novelist Sherrill skillfully creates a world in which the reader is more than willing to suspend disbelief to see the man in the monster and the monstrous in all of us. Recommended for larger public libraries and academic fiction collections.”
“I didn't pick up this book the first time I saw it because I assumed it would have a one-joke plot; my wife read it first and persuaded me to give it a try. It turned out to be one of the finest contemporary novels I've read in years. Sherrill never loses compassion for his protagonist despite his gleeful mastery of the Southern grotesque style--rather like Flannery O'Connor, come to think of it. The minotaur, known simply as "M" to his friends (shades of Kafka?), is more humane than some of the humans, good-natured, fallible, groping toward connection with the strange and numerous race of homo sapiens around him. His efforts, missteps, failures and yearnings echo those of every Outsider in literature and life. Are we not all half-human, half-beast, struggling to make our thick tongues give voice to our deepest beliefs and longings? I laughed, I cried, I passed it on to a friend.”