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.
To hear more from Neil Gaiman on The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, click here, or listen to the introduction at the beginning of the book itself.
©2000 Steven Sherrill (P)2011 John F. Blair Publisher
I honestly can't remember the last time I was this surprised by such originality in storytelling. Bravo to Steven Sherrill for a tale that's both audaciously fanciful and very human (or half-human, I suppose). Delightful, bittersweet and utterly unexpected. I'm recommending this to my friends.
... Another outstanding performance by Holter Graham, one of the most listenable(?) readers in the world of audiobooks.
... Big thanks to Neil Gaiman for championing a fine work that might not have received the attention it deserves.
... And now I can't help but think about other legendary creatures from ancient literature. What are they up to these days?....
The Cat reviews
Here's the premise: a mythological creature, head of a bull, body of a man, works as a line cook in a steakhouse in rural North Carolina and nobody much notices! A real Minotaur! Horns and everything, okay I'll have the prime rib. Sherril makes us accept that suspension of disbelief, telling a story where impossibility intrudes on reality with hardly a ripple. The Minotaur is always The Minotaur, with the capital letters and rarely a pronoun, and the constant repetition of "The Minotaur" is almost hypnotic. The Minotaur lives in a trailer park, fixes cars and falls in love with the epileptic waitress. We never find out how he got here from Crete, but we don't mind because this is clearly where he belongs, just as every other place he's been is where he belongs. He remembers devouring virgins and youths but hasn't the energy to get into that these days, and he prefers onions anyway. It's a story about the downside of immortality
Holter Graham perfectly captures the speech of The Minotaur, a series of modified bovine grunts. He weaves the rest of the story in almost dreamlike cadences, giving the characters the voices that are different, and not strained.
This book was picked by Neil Gaiman, and it's not hard to see why. Gaiman's entire ouvre is more or less about the collision of myth and reality, and when you've read everything he's written, a good way to get over the annoyance that he hasn't written more is to read things he likes.
I was very excited to see these selections by Neil Gaiman and this did not disappoint. The story was well written, rich with sensation and experiences, not all of them pleasant but the end of the book I felt completely satisfied. Sherill's writing made it easy for me to empathize with the Minotaur, and his character transcends the mythical beast and becomes very human and very familiar. Really glad I bought this book.
Sadness, lonliness, isolation
No I have not
This was a very good book, although the thing that really stays with you after both during and after finishing the book is the unrelenting sense of loneliness and sadness that the author imbues in the Minotaur. At times I found the book difficult to listen to because of this. The author did an amazing job of making the Minotaur feel like a real character that exists in the real world. He does such a good job at this that you sometimes forget that he is a mythical creature. This in and of itself can actually feel like a detriment, as the book loses some of the 'magic' that comes from writing about mythical creates.
Ultimately, I think that this is definitely worth listening to, but just remember that it is not about mythology, it is about the lonliness, sadness and isolation that comes from being different from everyone around you.
If you have suffered through many English literature classes in college, my headline says it all. Because the main character is the Minotaur, I guess this book technically qualifies as fantasy. But the handling of plot, character, action is totally from the literary genre rather than the fantasy or science fiction genre. Ask yourself which you preferred: Moby Dick or The Lord of the Rings? The Great Gatsby or The Wheel of Time? William Faulkner or George R. R. Martin? If you preferred the first in each of these choices, then you may actually like this book. If you are able to enjoy both the literary and the fantasy genre, then this book may be quite your cup of tea. But if you depended on Cliff Notes to get you through Moby Dick and all its literary brothers, then give this book a miss.
The editorial synopsis of this book says that the plot revolves around the Minotaur's love for an epileptic waitress. But the plot is a very thin thread amidst a great sea of vividly described scenes wherein nothing much happens and NOTHING has a conclusive ending.
I finished this book, and I don't usually finish books I don't like, so it had *something*. But I was irritated almost the entire time I was listening to it, and planning my scathing review throughout. Almost everyone in this book was little, mean, or unlikable. A few acts of futile kindness were scattered among a host of petty cruelties. There was instance after instance where some sort of action was called for--call the boss, call the police, call a taxi--where nobody did anything. And there was one truly appalling scene where two children are in considerable danger, their mother is nearby but ignorant of what is going on, and our "hero" goes for a car ride so he won't be there when the @#$% hits the fan.
There are a number of scenes with sexual overtones, and pretty much every one of them is unpleasant, bordering on disgusting, in some way. The main character comes across as being mentally retarded--really. He is good at a few things, so I guess he couldn't be, but if you like your protagonists to be brilliant, witty, brave, or effective, look elsewhere.
The book ends in the same limping, ineffective way of everything that went before it. I THINK the author thinks he wrote a happy ending, but I'm not sure. There was a brief epilogue that was supposed to inform us, I guess. But the images were disjointed and symbolic, and conveyed nothing much to me. I suppose if I'd been reading this story instead of listening to it, I could have gone back over the epilogue 15 or 20 times to figure out what it was meant to convey, but I don't think listening to it again would have helped much, and I don't care enough about this story to (heaven forbid!) spend more money to buy a printed copy. Or even to go to my local library and look for it.
As you may have deduced by now, I won't be recommending this book to all my friends. Nor do I recommend it to you.
Nay~ not time well-spent. I have to admit that the only reason I continued listening was because I paid for it and because the narrator was FANTASTIC. I also want to give credit where its due: Sherrill's prose, overall writing style, and wordsmithing are well honed. At times I truly enjoyed his sentence structure and descriptions... BUT~ this story didn't go anywhere. After 4 hours and 49 minutes, I had to stop. It's a dull story overall. I really don't understand where all the praise comes from. This will be the first audiobook I was unable to finish. I even made it through Amanda Ronconi's nasal-y, whiny, exaggerated Alaskan accent in How to flirt with a Naked Werewolf (not my usual book, but it was part of a girl's bookclub).
I cannot speak for the back half of the book, but the front half of it is a sad, and dull story of a minotaur living in an old backwards town, living in a trailer, going to his job (cook in a local restaurant), fixing his car, having the desire to speak but not ever doing it, and overall letting life wash over him as he craves human interaction that he can't quite have. It's depressing at best... At first I thought the book would have many more mythological references with fun modern twists (it didn't), and then I thought: well maybe it's a study on human interaction and what we take for granted in our social rituals (that didn't seem to develop). The I thought... hmm, perhaps the author is using this is a criticism on how poorly we treat outcasts or some such (nay, the reprimand never came). Then finally I decided: the author just wants to tell a sad tale, about a lonely, boring individual, with no real aspirations, phantom hopes, and an unstable life and background that kept him (and will keep him) on the road to more eternal nothingness. That's when I came back to Audible to find my next book. Goodbye
I don't think I will...
This narrator does an excellent job with what could be a very monotonous story. His voices and grunts and tone were the highlight of those 4+ hours.
I was disappointed in this book. I wanted to love it because Neil Gaiman recommended it. I gave it 3 starts overall because the narrator deserves credit (and the author forges a good paragraph even if the story is boring).
I chose this book because it was on Neil Gaiman's recommended list, and I'm beginning to get the idea his tastes are a little darker than mine. The minotaur and the characters that surround him are flawed, and ultimately very human, but events unfold in a way that made me squirm, always anticipating the next thing that was going to wrong, or the next encounter he was going to have with a character who behaved badly, or the next irrevocable bad decision the minotaur would make. The ending was redemptive, so I'm not sorry I listened, but it made me uncomfortable enough while it played out that I'm not sure I can call the experience enjoyable.
The narrarator was terrific, and did a great job voicing all the characters, especially the one who speaks the least, the minotaur himself.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I decided to listen to this but ultimately I couldn't put it down and didn't want it to end. The story is "simple" yet so complex, the Minotaur is quite a character (in all senses of the word). Many books create situations (crisis) and the reader can typically figure out what will happen next, this is not one of those books. This isn't to say the results are outlandish or so far fetched one would never have imagined the outcome, it is a testament to the creativity of the author. I will definitely be be reading other books from the "Neil Gaiman Presents" series and if they are are as intriguing as this one it will be a wonderful journey. If your contemplating picking this up, do yourself a favor and go for it.
Well... In my humble opinion this isn't a story. I mean it's a situation, but not a story. What really happens? Sure there are events, but what is the central conflict that M must overcome? Isn't that the first part in the definition of a story. There must be conflict. The only conflict I see here is a mythical creature living in the American South trying to keep his job and get a girl. No event sends things into motion. It's just a series of everyday things that sometimes embarasses M and sometimes makes him happy. In the end, he is miserable...just like he was in the beginning.
I'm okay with a literary novel that is slow through out, but the novel has to go somewhere. This thing doesn't in my opinion. And in general, I got bored several times. (mostly during the tons of introspection that occurs in between actual events)
The fact that he crafted such a detailed character...and went nowhere whith him...
He was a natural fit for the voice of this particular minotaur.
It was well written. The guy (an English professor at Penn State, I believe, but don't quote me on that) obviously understands prose and how to construct beautiful sentences. And he obviously understands characterization. I understood M better than I ever wanted to by the end!
I just want to state that I know there are people who love htis book. I can even understand it from a purely technical perspective. It is well written. It just doesn't tell a story. A story resolves something in the end (usually the conflict mentioned above). This "story" doesn't go anywhere in my opinion, and as clever of a situation as putting a minotaur in current society is...and as clever as the athor is at using a mythological creature to point out short-comings in today's society, you need to give M something to do...something to solve before I will enjoy it.
Again, this is all my humble opinion and take it for what it is worth. If you disagree and enjoy the book, then I am happy for you!
I should preface this review by saying I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman's and selected this book simply because he recommended it.
To start with the positives, the performance and voice of the book is very well done. Holter Graham took a very difficult task - a main character who primarily communicates in grunts, single words and short phrases and who relies heavily on inflection - and pulls it off admirably. He also does a fine job of giving individual voices to the supporting characters. I will also mention that the the writing is technically excellent; the author has a wonderful command of language and I found myself marveling at the extensive and precise vocabulary he employs. It would be interesting to count how many unique words appear in this book and compare to novels of similar length. I suspect Steven Sherrill will have the average scribe outpaced by some distance.
My concerns with the book involve the story, or rather the general lack of one. The setup is clear: a 5000 year old immortal creature of mythology is currently working as a cook in a restaurant in North Carolina. There's no spoiler in telling this; it's on the liner notes. The problem is that the book vaguely hints at but doesn't explain *how* this came to be, what the Minotaur thinks of this or how and why society accepts him or does not accept him (except when convenient as a plot device). Moreover there is little story arc - not a lot happens. I spent the first couple hours of the book thinking that it was exposition and setup before the real story of the book began. Only later did I realize that it *is* the book. There are characters introduced and never fleshed out; some characters that are merely caricatures (Shane?) and there are a couple very interesting characters encountered and a great possibilities hinted at that are never explained or returned to. (What was chasing the pigs? What is the deal with the video game playing gas station attendant?) The author hints at a universe of possibility but doesn't give us any of it. The plot, such as it is, lacks any real payoff, resolution or satisfying conclusion. Perhaps that's the whole point - if you're immortal that's what life must feel like - but as a decidedly mortal reader I like having revelations, resolutions, and identifiable change to the characters and myself when I read a novel.
I found that while the book was well written and well performed, it was ultimately unsatisfying. I left disappointed, and not curious enough to invest another 10 hours in whatever comes next to see if more of the universe is revealed.
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