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3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  1,225 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Winner of the National Book Award

"Rich, hilarious . . . There's every chance in the world that John Barth is a genius." Playboy
By the winner of the National Book Award and bestselling author of "The Tidewater Tales," three of the great myths of all time revisited by a modern master.
Dunyazade, Scheherazade's kid sister, holds the destiny of herself and the prince who holds...more
Paperback, 308 pages
Published November 20th 2001 by Mariner Books (first published 1972)
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I seemed 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 a anachronistic book of three novellas. Somewhat related, but still a dance and music of prose. I thought "Dunyazadiad" was a great set up. It roared. Funny, tight, and always a b...more
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-muncher´s specs) to a degree that seems almost to outsize the author´s 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...more
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...more
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
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
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...more
Jul 28, 2008 Krys rated it 3 of 5 stars
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...more
Jose Luis
La novela -o lo que sea- está dividida en tres partes, dedicadas a reelaborar desde la ironía los mitos/leyendas de Sherezade, Perseo y Belerofonte. Cada una es un artificio narrativo en el que lo narrado es inseparable de la reflexión implícita sobre el hecho de narrar etc., etc. Mediada la tercera parte la dificultad supera lo que esperaba, y el esfuerzo -que ya requerían los otros capítulos- casi deja de verse recompensado. Es un ejercicio de escritura en grado extremo, una obra maestra que l...more
'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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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
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...more
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...more
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 &...more
Nicole Wolverton
I only read Dunyazadiad (the first novella) and neglected to read the other novellas. I read this for an academic paper I'm writing, and as far as the writing of the novella goes I'd give this a slightly higher rating. My problem with Dunyazadiad is what Barth does to Scheherazade and Dunyazad (Sherry and Doony in the novella). He basically inserts himself into the story as a de facto time traveller and becomes the source of the stories in The Arabian Nights. In doing so, he makes Scheherazade i...more
Tami Lynn Andrew
I was very excited about this book but after enduring the first 90 pages or so (the first story and a handful of pages into the second) I just couldn't read it anymore. I tried to skip the second story, thinking maybe I just didn't like the way it was written, but the last story was just as terrible.
It is just so muddled. The first story is the only one where the narrative isn't completely lost in disjointed jargon.
I can't remind you enough how guilty/bad I feel when I don't complete a book, eve...more
Skylark 100
great metafiction book by john barth. there were a couple parts in bellerophoniad where chimera got its lion's-head up its goat's-ass for a bit, but never for more than a few pages at a time. the comment on this page that said the book can't be art and also go for humor to the degree that it does really bugged me, because being playful with the medium is the whole point of what it's trying to do. i guess not everybody likes art about art but i think it's nice to read a book that has too much fun...more
Dec 01, 2013 Sharyl added it
Shelves: 2013-reads
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.

I actually expected to like this but was deeply disappointed. Barth is the very paradigm of post-modern fiction: very self-aware of the text as text, the distinctness of words from their referents, the resistance of language (or indeed of "referants") to be be pinned down to a fixed meaning. It takes three stories from classical mythology and sort of playfully deconstructs them, but what's left is utterly sterile, the novel as a kind of elaborate word game, to use an apt cliche, an exercise in i...more
Cindy C
Mar 04, 2014 Cindy C is currently reading it
Hmmm...what do I think. I think I'm not as fond of postmodern play as I previously thought, especially if it pulls you out of the narrative in the way that John Barth does---abruptly and with no thought to those who are not writers, academics, or literature majors. Still you have to admire the man for writing this tangle of a book, and for keeping it interesting. Nonetheless, I think I reached my limited in the third novella---the longest and most convoluted of the three. I did find many things...more
I remember reading and like this book about 20 years ago but can't now imagine why I kept it so long. The first part, a retelling of 1001 nights from the perspective of Shaherazade's younger sister, is interesting but hardly compelling. The second section, about a middle aged Perseus longing for his glory days, was very dull. And the third section, about a middle aged Bellerophon's dissatisfaction with his own complacency, was so full of middle-aged angst that I just couldn't make myself finish...more
This is sort of a post-modern take on story-telling, in 3 short novellas. The highlight of the book is Dunyazadiad, which is a retelling of the Arabian Nights from the point of view of Scheherazade's younger sister. It's amazing -- it weaves at least 3 stories-within-a-story during it, and it really holds up a magnifying glass to storytelling in general. The other 2 were alright, but the first one is really a WOW! If it were just that one novella, it'd be 4 stars easily.
Aug 08, 2007 Lorraine rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who are very into conceptual writing
Shelves: odiousbooks
It deserves only 1 star, but I gave him another as it can't be denied (and this book shows it) that Barth is clever and knows what he's doing. The only problem is that he knows it, and is very preoccupied with showing you how clever he is. This being the case, the fiction is really unpalatable. His criticism (ironically?) is a whole lot more enjoyable, probably because he's not trying to show off.
Sep 27, 2012 Irwan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Irwan by: KCRW Bookworm
Shelves: finished, 2012
Take some established stories from folktales and myths. Then massage it, squeeze it and milk it. That is, I think, what John Barth is doing here. He ridicules the established hero, beautifies the established monsters, reflects on storytelling while telling stories. Along the way he invents words and phrases which is brilliant.

This book is radiantly creative, hilarious, sexy and intelligent!
Dec 29, 2007 Kat rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mythology lovers
Shelves: mindgames
I discovered the genius of Barth and the Maryland tidewaters in this book - I loved the reuse of old themes and the mobius strip-like quality of his plot. Fun read and this was during college when obligatory read was the rule. I actually read this and enjoyed it. Discovered Joseph Campbell and the his hero schema because of this book and have been grateful ever since.
Ken McDouall
Barth's meta-narrative style can be annoying, and also allows him to get lazy about little things like plot, characterization, and dialogue because he's so preoccupied with his own cleverness. This is a collection of three pieces, two of them previously published and the third written to tie the others together. Read the first two parts and skip the third.
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"John Simmons Barth (born May 27, 1930) 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,...more
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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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