From Publishers Weekly
From the iconic Barth come nine darkly comic stories set in a gated community on Maryland's Eastern Shore. In his trademark style—multiple endings, metaphysical musings, breaking the fourth wall—Barth presents a searing indictment of a certain sociological class in the later stages of life, when the worries of advancing age beset characters who are dealing with or anticipating infirmities, burdensome caregiving and wrenching losses. Barth's antic eye for character is undiminished; he fleshes out a spectrum of men and women who run the gamut of professions, political beliefs and financial status, and whose relationships include unwavering marital love, random flirting and adultery. The current(ish) events simmering in the background (the Bush administration's follies, Uganda and Darfur, and several hurricanes) ground the narrative and put the stories into a broader context outside the community's gates. Urbane, discursive and humorous, often bawdy and never sentimental, these stories would be an accessible way for new readers to discover Barth, and his fans, of course, will eat this up. (Oct.)
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Comedic metafictionist Barth, an essential voice in American literature, is getting a kick out of writing as an irreverent elder in this merry satire about the smart, moneyed, and demanding retirees living in a gated community. It isn’t always clear who is telling these linked, seemingly mundane, abruptly catastrophic tales. Is it Tim Manning, whose wife is the first to fall prey to Heron Bay Estates’ Peeping Tom, the lesbian daughter of the development’s unluckiest couple, or George I. Newett? (Did you really?) Sometimes the narration reads like a Desperate Housewives parody. Elsewhere, one can grow cross-eyed over discussions about real-estate assessments, community rules, and last wills and testaments. Set in the Bush II years, Barth’s sweet if stinging tales tell of long, loving marriages, age and death, the us/them attitude implicit in the community’s gatedness, and environmental degradation. As playful as ever, Barth is notably more lucid and tender here, and like Chesapeake Bay, about which he writes so affectionately, his stories are scintillating on the surface and churning with danger below. --Donna Seaman