Tom Schachtman 2020 – I originally wrote this review for Reedsy Discovery, where I am a reviewer. Visit the review and the site here: Reedsy Discovery Review
Seldom have I written a review in which I can quiet the voice of the critic while losing myself in the story. As I read The Memoir of the Minotaur, that critical voice was very quiet; I am not exaggerating when I say the prose is so nearly flawless that we may as well call it perfect.
**This book contains explicit content.**(But the review does not.)
The book is exactly as described in the title; Asterion, otherwise known as The Minotaur, is the monster that lived in the center of the Labyrinth of Greek mythology. The Minotaur speaks to us directly, in first person. His language shifts from classical to modern, with humor and 21st-century slang thrown in to surprise the reader and to remind us that Asterion has been living (well – not living, exactly) in Hades for fifty centuries, and is now meeting us in our own time.
In contrast to the labyrinth, which is, by nature, hard to navigate, this memoir is a straight line from birth to death and beyond. This is an interesting choice and it is appreciated, as this reviewer is not an expert in ancient myth. A meandering story line would likely have confused me. The Minotaur lives a life in which his only diversions are eating (a lot of people) and sex (with a lot of people). Mr. Shachtman has depicted both pastimes unapologetically and with a matter-of-fact tone that’s perfect in the context of this story.
As I read the book I wondered what my experience would have been had I already been well-versed in Greek Mythology. I did finally give in to my curiosity by googling the Minotaur and his fate when I was nearly done with the book. I wish I hadn’t, and I don’t recommend researching the characters or events of the Labyrinth until you’ve finished the book.
This author’s creative medium is clearly the written word, and there is not one phrase that has not been carefully selected and evaluated. The question/answer section after the end of the story feels staged as a way to allow some bragging, but Shachtman has a right to brag. This is a work of art and earns an unequivocal five stars.
If you enjoyed Madeline Miller’s Circe or anything by Neil Gaiman you will not want to miss this book.