Sunday, October 08, 2006
I liked the idea behind Chimera more than I actually enjoyed the novel. Same can be said for the other Barth I read, Giles Goat-Boy. I began each book reading with great gusto, only to find my enthusiasm waning along the way. In Chimera I found Barth's ingenious re-telling of Scheherezade with its po-mo twists and turns hilarious, bawdy, and interesting. Unfortunately that chunk of the book is only its beginning one-fifth. I was quickly into the second stage, a less engaging revamp of the Perseus legend, and the narrative tricks and authorial interventions and academic puns became stale. There are moments of fun throughout Chimera, which is extremely ingenious, at times hilarious and sexy, but way too academic and overwrought for my taste. The postmodernists tend toward such excesses, even those I admire. I admire Barth more than I enjoy him. Someday I'll probably still read The Sot-Weed Factor out of obligation to some ideal concerning what those with MAs in English should be have read before dying.