Let me tell you a story about a story about a storyteller who's telling a story. A nested doll kind of story. Or perhaps a filigree of interlacing stories.

Chimera by John Barth is a story about stories and story tellers. It is by no means an easy read, and definitely not a book you rush through with half of your mind somewhere else. It's a book that requires a bit of focus.

Like the mythical creature by the same name, that consisted of three different animals, Chimera comprises three different stories: The Dunyazadiad, the Perseid, and the Bellerophoniad. The three stories retell, in their own special way, three classics, namely 1001 Arabian Nights (Dunyazade being the younger sister of Sheherezade), Perseus' story, and the tale of Bellerophon. But John Barth's way of "retelling" means that he gives us the story about the stories and their tellers.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell who's doing the talking: the narrative is so convoluted that you sometimes find, when you backtrack (as you sometimes might need to do), that the narrator is the story itself. I occasionally had to close the book for a few minutes while sorting things out in my mind, and I did find that my usual way of speed-reading did me less than no good in the case of this particular book.

There is no discernable point to the stories, other than the joy of telling a story. John Barth doesn't seem to be wanting to teach anyone a lesson; it's more an introspective journey through the author's thoughts and experiences. A pleasurable one most of the time, confusing and puzzling at times, but - I dare say - never boring.

If you want something delicious but chewy, sweet without setting your teeth on edge, this book is definitely worth a try. Be prepared to work for the treats, though, as it's not all that easily accessible.