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The Development [Kindle Edition]

John Barth
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“I find myself inclined to set down for whomever, before my memory goes kaput altogether, some account of our little community, in particular of what Margie and I consider to have been its most interesting hour: the summer of the Peeping Tom.” Something has disturbed the comfortably retired denizens of a pristine Florida-style gated community in Chesapeake Bay country. In the dawn of the new millennium and the evening of their lives, these empty nesters discover that their tidy enclave can be as colorful, shocking, and surreal as any of John Barth’s fictional locales. From the high jinks of a toga party to marital infidelities, a baffling suicide pact, and the sudden, apocalyptic destruction of the short-lived development, Barth brings mordant humor and compassion to the lives of characters we all know well. From “one of the most prodigally gifted comic novelists writing in English today” (Newsweek), The Development is John Barth at his most accessible and sympathetic best.

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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

Product Details

  • File Size: 252 KB
  • Print Length: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st edition (October 7, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003ZX7V2Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,930 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A playful flirtation with the Grim Reaper October 29, 2008
THE DEVELOPMENT is a collection of nine short stories that are connected (sufficiently so that it is fair to regard the book as a novel) by setting, characters, and plot developments. The setting is a planned community on Maryland's Eastern Shore, whose residents are upper-middle class WASPs (with a few Catholics and Jews) living the later or last chapters of their lives, most of whom understandably are pre-occupied with the various manifestations of decrepitude and with death. Yet the novel is by no means a downer. It is so infused with Barth's typical good humor and gentle irony, his linguistic playfulness, and his clever digressions into "meta-fiction" that it becomes an entertainment. THE DEVELOPMENT also features Barth's typical fascination with, and telescoping examination of, matters of history/time and geography/space. In this regard, the last paragraph is particularly noteworthy, and poignant, bearing as it does hints of the author's valediction.

Sad to think that this might well be the last work from Barth, who now is 78 (although in a sense, as Barth I think would concur, what is sad about the inevitable?). THE DEVELOPMENT may not be a major work of American fiction, on the plane of "The Sot-Weed Factor" or "Lost in the Funhouse", but it still is worthwhile. As odd as it might seem to say about a work that constantly flirts with the Grim Reaper, I thoroughly enjoyed THE DEVELOPMENT.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Development is a novel told in nine short stories. The title refers to Heron Bay Estates, a fictional retirement/second-home community on the Chesapeake Bay in which all of these stories take place. Although the same characters appear throughout the book, the focus and point of view changes for each story, revealing new information about the characters and illustrating the deep connections that run through this close-knit community. In addition to the idea of community, the other primary theme present in these stories is mortality and the aging process: What does it mean to grow old? And when, if ever, is it time to give up the ghost?

Barth pays great attention to structure in this collection. Not only is the narrative structure of each story closely controlled, but the structure of Heron Bay Estates is also meticulously described and upheld. Each sub-neighborhood contains a particular style of house and a specific type of inhabitant, and Barth remains faithful, sometimes annoyingly so, to this structure throughout.

Bath's playful writing style adds a substantial amount of levity to these often dark stories, though Barth's narrative stunts are occasionally more frustrating than satisfying. In one case, Barth simply stops a story in the middle of the action, "pull[ing] its narrative plug before somebody gets hurt." Only someone with a reputation as well-established as Barth's can get away with such an escape. Fortunately, other fully-formed stories (of which "Toga Party" is the best) round out this interesting collection.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life and death behind the gates October 22, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
John Barth's curious collection of loosely-related stories starts off with a terrific one....a supposed peeping tom who has infiltrated the security of a gated community. Or has he? Is he one of them? The couples introduced here are diverse, initially likeable and have character potential. Unfortunately, "The Development" fails simply, well, to develop. In the end, it's a meandering trip down not-so-good memory lane, where the reader needs a playbill and a map to chart its course.

Barth writes with great dashes of color but his characters take on as much interest as a cocktail party conversation, about which one story here is devoted. The author's narrative style lacks force, giving this cast little chance for empathy. Indeed, when the fate of one couple lies hanging in the balance early on and is then resolved, I was more than happy to see these two largely disappear.

The ostensible purpose of a community with gates is to keep outsiders out, but Barth clearly convinces us that the truer reason is to keep its residents inside...and allow them to become more insular. Unfortunately, "The Development" doesn't live up to the expectations of what a collection of people living in this type of arrangement could achieve on the fictitious page.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sparkling Stories March 4, 2010
Imaginative stories that focus on a demographic that doesn't get much airtime: Aging residents of a gated community on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The fact that most of the characters are over 60 delights readers who might not be aware that seasoned adults have rich and varied histories behind them, plump with events and philosophies and experiences. Barth deftly explores life, death, growing old, being in love, and looking back on the good and bad things that life brings to all of us.

I'm usually a fan of science fiction and of stories with things blowing up and people getting into gunfights, etc. "The Development" contains stories more or less about me and my husband and the life we have shared with all of its ups and downs. Every story rang true but had its own quirky twist that appealed to my appreciation of odd things.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hope I Die Before I Get Old August 22, 2010
Don't read this book if you are depressed about getting older :).
Interwoven stories set on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where most of Barth's stories are set. Most concern various stages of aging, dealing with aging, along with Barth's surreal touches ("self-consuming metafiction").
Actually, I think this is one of the better of Barth's more recent books.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars stories of Us
An evocation of what it may mean to be the aging fortunate generation facing The End.
Wait, that's not fair to the interest John Barth draws out as one reads. Read more
Published 2 months ago by E. L. Davenport
5.0 out of 5 stars Comic Meditations on Life and Death in a Maryland Gated Community
In a late work of fiction that demonstrates the power of John Barth's comedic, satirical prose, "The Development" is a novel composed of nine short stories set within a gated... Read more
Published 13 months ago by John Kwok
4.0 out of 5 stars What could happen...

What a nightmare.

The Development is collection of short stories about a certain gated housing community on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Chesepeak Bay. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Dog Brindle
3.0 out of 5 stars Book needed for class
I got this book for a class I took last semester. It's alright. Not sure if it'd be something I would buy just to buy but it's not horrible.
Published 21 months ago by Megan M
2.0 out of 5 stars Strange
began as a good story, became bizarre and ridiculous with every turning page. I would not recommend this book and did not finish it
Published 23 months ago by Barbara
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, poignant and thought provoking
I enjoyed the way John Barth has to relate to the reader, his way of including the reader in his stories and the flow that creates a kind of enchantment while you swim across his... Read more
Published on February 9, 2013 by Maria Laura Scasso
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for fiction readers who live in Maryland
As a relatively new transplant to Maryland, I found this a quite wonderful introduction to Maryland culture, kind of a "Welcome!" packet in novel form. Read more
Published on July 25, 2012 by noochinator
3.0 out of 5 stars A book for the aging who have money
This books gives a bit of insight into the thoughts of those who are ageing and are relatively well off. And, there is nothing wrong with that. Read more
Published on October 3, 2011 by RFT
5.0 out of 5 stars Just What I Ordered
A gently used copy of The Development arrived in a timely manner and in good condition as was described. I am most pleased with my purchase. Read more
Published on March 15, 2011 by Carole A. Calhoun
2.0 out of 5 stars One great story and a bunch of pointless fluff
Barth presents a collection of interrelated short stories about a gated community for the affluent elderly on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Read more
Published on October 4, 2010 by Dave Deubler
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