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The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break: A Novel Paperback – November 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 313 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312308922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312308926
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

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.
-Andrea Caron Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Steven Sherrill has been making trouble with words since 8th grade, when he was suspended from school for two weeks for a story he wrote. He dropped out of school in the 10th grade, ricocheted around for years, eventually earning a Welding Diploma from Mitchell Community College, which circuitously to an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Now, Steven is an Associate Professor of English and Integrative Arts at Penn State University, Altoona, where he teaches, paints, and captains the Allegheny Bilge Rats Shanty Choir. He has three novels and a book of poems in the world. He has written several articles on contemporary artists for Modern Painters and for TATE Magazine. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Fiction in 2002. His first novel, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, is translated into 8 languages and was recently released as an audio book by Neil Gaiman Productions. His second novel, Visits From the Drowned Girl, published by Random House (and nominated by them for the Pulitzer Prize), US and Canongate, UK was released in June of 2004. The Locktender's House, novel #3, was released by Random House in Spring 2008. And in November 2010, CW Books released the poetry collection, Ersatz Anatomy. Most recently, Louisiana State University Press: Yellow Shoe Fiction Series has accepted the novel JOY, PA for publication in the spring of 2015.

There are other books in the works, paintings always underway, much musical silliness underway, and seventeen ukuleles in the house, and 750 vintage wooden crutches in his basement.


Much more info can be found at www.stevensherrill.com

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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This is serious writing, and fun; every page I turned, I found myself smiling.
Dinty W. Moore
Yet, he is immortal and a minotaur!!, but has a sense of longing, pathos, kindness and hope is also part of all of us, the part of us that feels "outside" of humanity.
Waterfall2
The most remarkable thing about this novel is author's ability to write about manual labour in an interesting, almost loving way.
Cary Watson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Matt Angle on April 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you read any synopsis of this book, you'd probably think, "Wow, how odd." Well, you'd be correct. However, putting the book down and not reading it because of that would be a grave mistake.
As debut novels go, this is certainly one of the better. It is not large, perhaps 350 pages, has a focused scope, great characters, and great writing.
Steven Sherrill's poetry background is evident in the book, but you certainly don't have to be a poetry lover (I'm not) to enjoy it. His writing is gorgeous, interspacing long lyrical lines with brief five word sentences. His descriptive talents are amazing. As one who worked in a restaurant in high school, I can say that the sights, sounds, and events that take place at the Minotaur's work are exactly correct.
Sherrill uses humor and humanity to great effect and by the first few pages of the novel, I did not find it strange at all that a creature with the head of a bull and body of a man was coexisting with humans in the modern South. I found myself identifing with some of what the Minotaur goes through, and found myself rooting for him.
If you've ever thought about taking a chance on a new author, this book is an excellent choice. It will make you smile and at the same time make you wonder about what it is to be fully human.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful By C. Trew on January 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm not a big English-writing-jargon-blahblahblah kind of guy, so statements like, "the over characterization of the mid-plot, doesn't even fit in with his standard style of the Victorian age." Whatever. I'm here to say that if you are looking for a fun book that is quick to read, buy this book. I liked it a lot. It made me smile. And I hate smiling.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Paul Baerman on January 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Cary Watson on June 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
Even though this novel does have the Minotaur of Greek myth as its main character, this is not a fantasy novel. Nothing fantastical or magical occurs, there are no prophecies fulfilled, no rousing Clash of the Titans battles, and no one wears a toga. If anything, this is closer to being a hyper-realist story than it is an exercise in fantasy. The setting is rural North Carolina in the here and now. The Minotaur, complete with his massive bull head, has found work as a line cook in a semi-fancy steakhouse. Most everyone at the steakhouse accepts or ignores their bull-headed co-worker, and the Minotaur seems to like it that way. Not a lot happens in this novel, but its pleasures aren't plot-based.

This novel is primarily about the mindset of the outsider, the loner. You can view the Minotaur as an immigrant or simply someone who's socially awkward, but either way Sherrill does a superb job of showing the quiet pains and pleasures of a life lived outside of mainstream society. The Minotaur experiences loneliness but he also seems to take some comfort in being detached from the hurly-burly of relationships.

The most remarkable thing about this novel is author's ability to write about manual labour in an interesting, almost loving way. Sherrill shows that work, even the most routine or meaningless variety, is a kind of social and psychological glue that helps keeps us sane. One of the particular pleasures of Minotaur is the way it captures the feel, the nuances, and the small joys of working with your hands. The kind of job that earns minimum wage is rarely featured in contemporary fiction, and if it is the people doing it are usually presented as villains, oppressed proles, or slack-jawed cretins.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By KatPanama on February 23, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I say often that I'm not big on magic realism but if it all could be as Sherrill's fabulous novel, I'd happily snuggle up with the category until kingdom come. In any case, this novel consumed me entirely on more levels than I can count. There really aren't any cardboard characters here, even the minor players are drawn well (maybe two exceptions). Required reading for those who enjoy mythology, have a restaurant fiction fetish or a southern novel fixation and just anyone at all loves a really good book. Finest kind of reading; miss this one and be so sorry.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K. Sozaeva VINE VOICE on June 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
This was a most intriguing book - I would go so far as to say it could easily become a classic of modern surreal literature. The Minotaur survives to this day, where he is a cook in a restaurant somewhere in North Carolina. Other immortals live and work among the mortals, such as Laurel, who is met during a trip to Florida taken by M and his landlord Sweeney. Interestingly, it seems that while people are occasionally taken aback by the Minotaur's appearance, no one seems terribly surprised by his presence.

I felt that, to me, this work spoke to the fact that there is within all of us a little bit of the freak that causes us to feel outcast and alone; this allows us to empathize with M. He lives very much in the "now" and has tended to forget much of his past and this is shown - among other ways - by the use of present tense in the narrative. M's search for love and acceptance is heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time.

Definitely an interesting bit of literature for anyone who is looking to broaden their horizons a bit.
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