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Chimera Paperback – November 20, 2001

3.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Review

"Rich, hilarious.... There's every chance in the world that John Barth is a genius." --Playboy

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

"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 her captive.
Perseus, the demigod who slew the Gorgon Medusa, finds himself at forty battling for simple self-respect like any common mortal.
Bellerophon, once a hero for taming the winged horse Pegasus, must wrestle with a contentment that only leaves him wretched. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (November 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618131701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618131709
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #978,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Though somewhat uneven throughout, John Barth's Chimera is an enjoyable and complex read, particularly for those with an interest in Ancient Mythology and Post Modern fiction. This "novel," written sometime after Giles Goat-Boy and Lost in the Funhouse, is comprised of three very loosely connected novellas, all taking post-modern slants on classic mythological stories.

"Dunyaziad" is a brief recounting of the 1001 Arabian Nights and the plight that Princess Scheherazade and her sister faced after recounting those 1001 stories to their tyrannical husbands. Don't worry if you've never read the real 1001 Nights: Barth provides enough context that you'll quickly figure out what's going on. You'll probably want to go out and read the original tales after you're done, because he does a great job of making these tales seem mysterious and intriguing.

"Perseiad" is tale of Perseus and his mid-life crisis after slaying Medusa and separating from his wife. This is definitely the best tale of the three and is very similar to Barth's earlier tales "Menelaiad" and "Anonymiad" from Lost in the Funhouse. The digressions are minimal, the plot perfectly formed (spiralic if you will), and the sense of impotency, confusion, and frustration very tangible.

"Bellerophoniad" is a self-conscious imitation of "Persiad" and probably the most difficult story of the three. It definitely has its good parts, but some of the post-modern digressions (particularly the lengthy account of characters originally found in Giles Goat-Boy, and notes from a lecture delivered on Barth's fiction itself) can really be tedious.

Once again, don't be frightened off by the copious references to mythological characters and events, even if you aren't previously familiar with them.
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Format: Paperback
Authors do not write novels with the purpose of having them labelled. Critics label novels and authors because they like to put things and people in their places.

John Barth writes novels, long or short, because he likes to. he writes them in specific styles and ways because that is what he enjoys and that is how he thinks, and that is how he writes.

The three short novels in Chimera are different in subject matter from Barth's other novels. The style is sometimes easy, sometimes cryptic and sometimes full of intellectual vanity. But that is what makes Barth.

One reads this type of work if one likes this type of work. And if the reader gets even more than he hoped to get out of reading the book, then the reader recommends it to others and sometimes writes a review.

If you like Barth, or this type of literary writing, but do not know much Greek mythology, you must read this book for fun and to expand your cultural horizons.

If you like Greek mythology, you should read this book for the perspective, the depth and the whimsy. And, who knows, you may start looking at more recent history in a different way.

If you like Gore Vidal's "histories", you may well like this book.

Finally, if you enjoyed Craig Shaw Gardner's books, maybe you will enjoy Chimera, but for different reasons.

These are not writer comparisons but reader idiosyncrasies.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the finest works by a fine author. Several scenes and lines from it have entered my personal mythos.
Each of the three novellas is a gem in its own way, and the trio work beautifully together. In each, the basic idea is to show a legendary figure as a real human being. We see Perseus after his glory days have passed, for example, and also meet Bellerophon who secretly feels that he has been a faker all along. But it's much more than yet another retelling of old legends.
It will make you think. It will probably also make you laugh in places and move you in others.
The wrapup is unexpected. Some will love it; some will hate it.
Do yourself a favor and read this. It's well worth the price of the paperback.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Now, I'm not nearly as erudite as John Barth is (or thinks he is) and thus missed about a million references to our Greek literary forebears in his novel here and I like to think that I know Greek mythology fairly well. However, I really enjoyed this book and if one isn't bothered by the simple fact that unless one teaches mythology at the local college, one probably will not "get" pieces of this book. Oh well. Basically the book is some sort of post-modern look at myths and how they conform to reality, told through three interconnected novellas. The first has to do with the lady from Arabian Nights, retelling the story from the point of view of her younger sister. The second has to do with Perseus, who is remembering his life after he slew the hideous Medusa and how it seemed to go downhill and that all the best moments of his life passed him by. The last part has to do with the guy who flew the Pegaseus who feels that he's never really done anything important with his life and he's just wondering what it all means. And that's basically the theme for all three of the stories, Barth seems to be trying to strip away the myth and act like these were people and give human faces and emotions to these heroes. And it's funny. Really funny. Maybe the shorter form works better or maybe he's actually being funny in a subject that I actually know something about but this was funnier than Giles Goat Boy, which has its merits, but this made me laugh outloud several times and if you're paying attention, it'll make you laugh too. Sometimes it gets a bit too pretentious for its own good, Barth writes himself in at several moments (I won't say when) and I'm not sure what that's supposed to be implying.Read more ›
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