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3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,609 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
The great heroes and heroines of legend--in chimera, master novelist John Barth retells the myths of three of these fabulous figures

Dunyazade, Scheherazade's kid sister of The Thousand and One Nights, holds the destiny of herself and the prince who keeps her captive.

Perseus, the demigod who slew the Gorgon medusa, finds himself at forty battling for simple self-respect lik
Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 12th 1985 by Fawcett (first published 1972)
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Apr 01, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
"The truth about fiction is that Fact is a fantasy; the made-up story is a model of the world."
- John Barth, Chimera


I seem to fall, often backwards into Barth. Chimera was on my radar, barely, but I didn't know much about it. So, I was lucky (I guess) to read it right after finishing Graves' The Greek Myths. Lucky stars or indulgent gods I guess.

Anywho, John Barth re+(tales|tails|tells) two Greek myths (and one Persian frame) into an anachronistic book of three novellas. Somewhat related, but st
Sep 28, 2015 Jonfaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For her part (she would go on--what a wife was this!), she took what she was pleased to term the Tragic View of Marriage and Parenthood: reckoning together their joys and griefs must inevitable show a net loss, if only because like life itself their attrition was constant and their term mortal. But one had only different ways of losing, and to eschew matrimony and childrearing for the delights of less serious relations was in her judgment to sustain a net loss even more considerable.

A number of
This is a stupid book.

John Barth has admirable goals (rejuvenating the novel) and an precise, musical command of language. But his one fatal flaw is his inability to get outside his own head. He aims for mythic significance, but the cosmic scope of his stories keeps getting mixed together with the very un-cosmic matter of John Barth, 20th century American writer, trying to think of words to put on the page. This manifests itself most obviously in two ways: his metafictional bent (he likes to wri
Aug 28, 2011 Rambambambam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Chimera? More like an ourobouros...Barth probes, prods, anatomizes, decenters, and renews the story-telling "thing" (to use one of many infectious Barthian colloquialisms, which give a winking, wry face to the monstrous ambition that bristles and bubbles behind the word-munchers specs) to a degree that seems almost to outsize the authors most beloved pet subject: that very "thing" itself: tales and telling, told and listening.

The style, as I mentioned, is energetic and folksy, and shifts in re
Vit Babenco
Jan 11, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
On the one hand John Barth threshed with the flail of his imagination many folklore and mythological archetypes to trash.
“Polyeidus had a daughter, who knows by whom. Sibyl. Younger than we. That summer she was our friend. Deliades adored her, she me. I screwed her while he watched, in a little grove down on the shore, by Aphrodite's sacred well. Honey-locusts grew there, shrouded by rank creepers and wild grape that spread amid a labyrinth of paths.”
And on the other hand he sacrilegiously turne
Nathan Jerpe
This was a hoot - three linked novellas each drawn from much older traditions, one from The Arabian Nights and two from Greek mythology (the careers of Perseus and Bellerophon, respectively). There's too much deconstructionist wankery in here for me, personally; I'm not all that interested in theories of narrative, texts that are aware of themselves, et cetera, and the author's occasional appearances in his own story come off as indulgent, but then again... a chimera is after all a conjunction o ...more
Well, here is another book that I have owned forever and just now got around to reading fully. This requires a bit of background.

The first time I started reading Chimera I got through the first novella, and gave up halfway through the second. The second time, I got a tad bit further... this time, I nearly gave up through the third story. Nonetheless, I did plow through. Yes, that is the right terminology. Plowed through. Finishing Chimera felt a bit like one of the 12 tasks of Hercules, unfortun
Jul 06, 2015 Marc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've started my Barth-reading with LETTERS and proceeded backwards to this one, and can conclude that I love him in full on meta-fictive/structural complexity-mode (which not everyone seems to favour, judging from the reviews on this one here on GR.)

The book consists of two perfectly composed (and very different) short stories and one quite insane novella so densely intertwined I would more or less count this as a novel in three parts. The first shorter ones are great in themself, but it is the
Jan 16, 2016 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When we talk about postmodern literature and metafiction, it would appear at first that we are talking about a fairly low-stakes arena of activity. Most often we are. Barth at his best, however, takes metafiction to a place of wild cosmological insight. And Chimera is emphatically Barth at his best. We are looking at text. Three texts. The idea of metafiction is to approach the text as text. But a text is a thing in itself as well as a nest of contexts. Contexts that reach across time and space. ...more
Jul 28, 2008 Krys rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, lit majors
I don't even know really where to begin with this book, except to say that it is the epitome of "meta-" if there ever was one. Judging by what I've read about Barth's other works, "meta-" seems to be his thing.

In Chimera, he retells 1001 Nights, the myth of Perseus, and the myth of Bellepheron with the intention of exploring why we continue to study the myths while simultaneously recasting them in a post-freudian language that tries to flesh out how such things could actually come to pass (which
Jul 15, 2009 Stuart rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a very mixed bag for me. The first of the three parts is beautiful, funny, witty and insightful. It's also by far the shortest and most successful. Part two, focused on Perseus, is an enjoyable little romp, if perhaps not as poignant as the opening story and certainly not as tightly written. Part three, however, is what knocks stars off my ranking for this book, as Barth launches into a cascade of silliness and post-modern literary pyrotechnics that, while intellectually stimulating ...more
Geoffrey Fox
Dec 16, 2014 Geoffrey Fox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"No better way to ponder structural conventions of narrative. Also a very funny book." This was my note in 1984, when I was reading Barth, Pynchon, Barthelme and others to discover new ways of writing as I worked on my first, still unpublished, novel.
"Chimera" is not so much a novel as an examination of itself, about how stories including this one are constructed — as New York Times reviewer Leonard Michaels summed up, "it consists of three parts retelling three ancient myths (the stories of Sc
Jan 13, 2009 Mark rated it really liked it
'We need a miracle, Doony...and the only genies I've ever met were in stories, not in Moorman's rings and Jew's Lamps. It's in words that the magic is- Abracadabra, Open Sesame, and the rest- but the magic words in one story aren't magical in the next. The real magic is to understand which words work, and when, and for what. The trick is to learn the trick.'

Too clever by half. I wonder if it is too bawdy to be post-modern, whatever that means. Writing about writing isn't necessarily meta-; Then
Jul 06, 2015 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Barth's Chimera is a playful, oblique set of three linked novellas. I have a fondness for Scheherazade/The Thousand and One Nights, so the Dunyazadiad was a perfect literary appetizer. It's fun, thoughtful, well crafted and easily accessible. I recommend it to anyone who loves reading. Beyond that, the novellas become increasingly obtuse, more analytical and more rewarding. That being written, the Perseid is a mostly straight forward examination of middle-aged mythic hero stuck in a rut. Th ...more
This is a meta-book connecting three novellas, all three of which are rewritten versions of ancient stories: The Thousand and One Nights, followed by the Greek myths of Perseus, then Bellerophon. There is more than one narrator, and sometimes there is some comic disagreement about whose story it is, anyway. This is clever and very amusing, though in my humble opinion, there were parts that went on a bit long--but then, the author does seem to be pointing out that--some tales do go on too long.

Jim Mann
Feb 06, 2016 Jim Mann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back in the 1970s, I read a number of John Barth's early works: The Sot-Weed Factor, The Floating Opera, The End of the Road, and Lost in the Funhouse. I liked his work quite a bit and even read The Sot-Weed Factor a second time. I hadn't read any Barth since then, until now.

Chimera in some ways is the ultimate post-modern work. It's made up of three novellas, each of which are about storytelling, each of which refers to itself, and each refers to the one before (the final novella starts with a
Mary Overton
“‘Mythology is the propaganda of the winners,’” (277) says Anteia, sister-in-law to mythic hero Bellerophone who kills the monster Chimera.
And Perseus, heroic slayer of Medusa, muses: “‘No man’s a mythic hero to his wife.’” (87)

In this mash-up of myth, John Barth applies shape-shifting magic to the concept of story-telling in general and the Heroic Journey in particular. It takes lots of background knowledge to enjoy the book … not JUST Scheherazade and Greek myth and Joseph Campbell/Robert McK
Joey Brockert
I suppose this is a good book. It is a collection of three stories: 'Dunyazadiad'; 'Perseid'; Bellerophoniad'. It gets quite weird in the last story. The other stories are strange too, but more straight forward.
'Dunyazadiad' tells Scheherazade and her one thousand and one (1,001) nights telling stories to the king. Her sister, Dunyazadiad, gets to watch the sex and storytelling. Eventually she gets taken to the kingdom of the first king's brother for his enjoyment. The story develops and ends
Jun 26, 2015 Sean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In which Barth reimagines various Greek myths and the story of Sheherazade. I might have gotten more out of it with a more thorough knowledge of Greek myth. But then again, maybe not. These three stories are as post-modern as it gets, all turning in on themselves, stories about the stories they're about, with Barth becoming one of the heroes himself, sort of. But not really. He pretty much races up his own fundament, as he'd put it. He's also a genius with words. So there's that. But I think as ...more
Mike Gilbert
Ah Mr. Barth. Please stop writing the same story. Or the same story within a story told about stories by story tellers? Or at least don't do it three times in the book with three different expositions and rising actions and climaxes and denouement. Especially when one is an old familiar story told from a slightly different angle than the very different angle I already read about in Tidewater Tales that riffs on the tale of Arabian nights. Nor with the second round of such retellings as a rehashi ...more
Sep 15, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dunyazadiad: 5

Perseid: 4

Bellerophoniad:2 (a serious struggle to get through)

It gets a 4 on the strength of the first novella and with a little help from the second one. But the last novella almost subtracts more from the overall rating. Bellerophoniad is overlong, difficult to fully comprehend, and seems like one big excuse for the author to talk about himself and his writing. He promotes himself and his accomplishments shamelessly in the last one and it's not enjoyable to read, especially 150 p
Jul 30, 2011 Meggy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't finish this book. Barth tries too hard to be the next Gregory Maguire (yes, I realize "Chimera" was published before "Wicked"--it's just for comparison's sake), and needs to learn the difference between putting a different take on a story and outright bastardizing a tale. I got a few pages into Scheherazade's story and then finally just slammed the book shut and never opened it again. His writing is very unclear, and his "twists" on the stories are there for the shock value and have n ...more
Jan 01, 2010 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my second foray into Barth, and as before, I leave it a little bit amazed, a little bit exhausted, and feeling like I've learned something about the art of fiction. Barth is often characterized as writing "metafiction," a label that certainly applies in this case, since nearly half of the book is concerned with writing the book itself, and explaining its uses as a cleanse for writer's block suffered by the author midway between a few other projects. In short, Barth seems to have used thi ...more
Aug 12, 2013 James rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Barth's manifesto The Literature of Exhaustion describes his later work as “novels which imitate the form of the novel, by an author who imitates the role of Author.” So that's what this is.

Three novellas: The first is a recursively self-generating retelling of the frame story from Arabian Nights, with Barth appearing as an authorial genie. The second picks up the post-apotheotic career of Perseus (Harry Hamlin) in a kind of henpecked and sometimes impotent doldrums, with lots of anachronistic
Robert Sheppard

"The Thousand and One Nights," or "Alf Layla Wa Layla," is often considered the archetypal narrative text, or the "Mother of All Narrative," and
Mar 15, 2011 Christopher rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Of the three stories in this book, the only one I really enjoyed was The Perseid. I've always been wary of metafiction; I'm suspicious of writing that only other writers will really appreciate. The Perseid came closest to the kind of metanarrative that I can appreciate though. The stories within it are layered but accessible, and the characters are people that I could care about. I am fond of stories of old heroes, people who were once great and beautiful who are now tired and facing the end of ...more
Ok, the 1st review in the front of my copy (actually a paperback) is from Playboy, the 2nd is from Cosmopolitan. Playboy is hardly representative of my idea of sexual politics.. & neither is Cosmo: to the editors of the latter: How many times can you rehash X # of tips for pleasing yr man? Really, it's sickening. Let's just FUCK, shall we? Remember INSTINCT for fuck's sake?!

ANYWAY, at 1st I was disappointed by this: I've just recently read "The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor" by Barth &
Mike Zickar
So this really co-shared the National Book Award for Fiction. I've been on a quest to read all the winners and so the quest led me to this strange choice.

This is a re-telling of three mythological stories. All I really want to say is that occasionally the writing was brilliant but for the most part this was a slog to the end. The three stories get progressively worse or just hard to connect with.

I feel like Barth was inspired by Borges but took his retelling of myths in a abstruse direction th
Dec 14, 2014 Jeff rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Chimera is two short stories and a novella, lightly linked as retellings of famous myths. The first retells the story of Sheherazade through the eyes of her sister, Dunyazade. The second tells the story of Perseus after his heroic wanderings, as he's settled into middle-age and is struggling with marriage difficulties and the inability to move beyond his days of mythic glory. The third is essentially a set of amusing musings draped over the skeletal framework of the story of Bellorophon.

All thre
Samson LeFerg
Dec 14, 2014 Samson LeFerg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the first two books of this three-part beast were highly entertaining and thought-provoking and all that, but barth gets ahead of himself (undoubtedly on purpose) in the "bellerophoniad," in which the meta-shenanigans get to be a bit too much even for this pomo-lover. that being said, the language is gorgeous, and barth's sense of playfulness should be a model for aspiring writers in this hyper-MFA'd era of dirty academicism ran amok.
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John Simmons Barth is an American novelist and short-story writer, known for the postmodernist and metafictive quality of his work.

John Barth was born in Cambridge, Maryland, and briefly studied "Elementary Theory and Advanced Orchestration" at Juilliard before attending Johns Hopkins University, receiving a B.A. in 1951 and an M.A. in 1952 (for which he wrote a thesis novel, The Shirt of Nessus).
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“En ningún caso, solía insistir, comprendían los magos necesariamente su arte, a pesar de que la experiencia lo había llevado a un par de conclusiones generales sobre el tema. Por ejemplo, que cada vez que aprendía algo nuevo sobre sus poderes, esos poderes disminuían, o en todo caso, quedaban alterados.” 2 likes
“Подожди, я это сейчас так прямо и запишу: никуда не годен, потому что всё шло как надо.
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