Subscribe to The Horn Book

Review of Bull

bull-david-elliott-smallstar2 Bull
by David Elliott
High School    Houghton    188 pp.
3/17    978-0-544-61060-6    $17.99    g

There’s little grand or heroic in Elliott’s clever verse version of the classical story of the Minotaur: its title, Bull, is topically and colloquially apt. The story unrolls in the voices of seven characters, each with his or her own poetic form (an appended author’s note details them), but it’s the god Poseidon who determines the tone — as instigator, manipulator, and despiser of humankind. His raunchy, derisive take on humans (“Man! / That guy’s a dick!” he says of Minos) is a spreading stain that permeates even the innocence of Asterion the bull-headed boy, maternal Pasiphae (who “take[s] refuge in madness”), and valiant Ariadne. The sympathetic heart of Elliott’s story is Asterion/the Minotaur: Elliott presents him as a physically deformed youth, suffering cruelly from his hateful father’s abuse. But Poseidon’s voice comments on all, and Elliott characterizes him as despicable, misogynistic, and sexually prurient. Raplike wordplay, rhymes with coercive predictability, unpleasant intensity — it’s horribly effective, culminating in the god’s conclusion: “the things you mortals do: / Ridicule. / Follow orders. / Stay passive. / Betray. / What a pity! / It could have gone another way.” Such is the matter of the Greek myths.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker About Deirdre Baker

Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca
at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the
past tense.

Share
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*