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Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time

I read The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time, by Steven Sherrill, because I'm kind of fascinated with minotaurs. I'm a double bill--Taurus and born in the Chinese Year of the Ox--so I suppose that my spirit animal is a bull. I think I'd look good with horns.

So this novel supposes that The Minotaur--it's not clear if it's the Minotaur from the Labyrinth, which would be unlikely because he was killed by Theseus--is in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania, working as a civil war re-enactor (one weekend he's Confederate, another Union, and usually dies early). He has no name except The Minotaur, although friends call him Mr. M. He does not say much, usually just "Mmmnnn" or "Unnngh." He, of course, has the head of bull and the body of a man, and lives in a motel room on Business 220 in exchange for work.

The gimmick, if one can call it that, is that no one really notices that he's a minotaur. Well, some do, and shrink away from him, but if we really saw a minotaur in the supermarket I think our reaction would be to call the local news. He goes about his day simply, relishing the butterscotch pie of a woman who works at the Old Scald Village (one of those historical villages where people act out parts) of The Widow Fisk. When he gets his horns caught in the broom-makers skirt, he is misunderstood and banished.

Then he meets a free-spirited woman, Holly, and her mentally challenged son, Tookus, when they're van breaks down across the street from the motel. That's where an obnoxious man, Danny, runs a wood-carving business: "In his heyday, in his glory days, the Minotaur would have trampled, then eaten such a human as Danny Tanneyhill. These are not those days."

He is touched by Holly, perhaps in love, and there is a sort of competition between Danny and he for her attention. They visit a closed-down farm maze, and The Minotaur only realizes that he will do anything for her.

The book is aptly titled, as The Minotaur and Sherrill are in no hurry to get anywhere. Here is the first paragraph: "The Minotaur lingers, there at the end of this day’s death. The Minotaur dawdles. The Minotaur takes his own sweet time. He finds himself in a moment of stasis, of relative calm. But moment itself is a relative word. The Minotaur’s time is endless, and as such potentially meaningless, empty at its ticking core." The story also takes its own sweet time, as there seems to be no rush to get to a point, if there is one. We don't know much about The Minotaur, only that he is ancient and has lived many places: "The Minotaur is nomadic by default. An intuitive vagabond. He may have been drawn, he may have been compelled, or he may have simply stepped over the chain and wandered up the dirt path for no good reason at all."

It's not a bad book by any means, but requires some patience. If one chooses to, one could see The Minotaur as a metaphor, but I'm not sure for what. Those that have no fixed place in the universe? Those who are shunned as monsters when they are in fact rather sweet, or even boring? There's a touching and erotic scene when The Minotaur pulls a splinter from Holly's butt cheek, and though they never consummate their feelings there is passion between them. Can even a man with the head of a bull find love?

Sherrill, some years ago, wrote a book called The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, which was the first sighting of The Minotaur. The excerpt on Sherrill's Web site suggests it is of a similar style. I may check it out, because I can't resist minotaurs. If you can't either, pick one of them up and stick with it.

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