Books: Scheherazade & Friend

CHIMERA by JOHN BARTH 308 pages. Random House. $6.95.

John Barth is one of those hyper-talented writers who must continually prove that the world of fiction is round, not flat, as most novels would lead one to believe. The problem is that Barth keeps turning up afterward looking as fresh as if he had only just come back from a day sail. From The Floating Opera and The End of the Road to The Sot-Weed Factor and Giles Goat-Boy, there is no real urgency in Earth's novels. His characters exhibit a comfortable, charming nihilism. Fat with alternatives, they can change roles as...

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