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The Development Paperback – Bargain Price, October 18, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, October 18, 2010
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (October 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547394500
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.8 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,650,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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. Suicide, traumatic deaths, "normal" deaths give one some pause, but make the book interesting. Death is a consideration among the old. Some of the stories were interesting reads: the peeping Tom and toga party. The post-tornado meeting was a boring story. All-in-all, the book was entertaining and makes one wonder what life may be like as one enters the final years.

I read this on a Kindle. I do not know if the paper versions of the book had the same editing problems, but there were so many places where "off" was spelled "of." Considering Barth's interesting and literary writing style, it is possible, but I do not think so, that he intended "of" to be used where "off" is the only word that would make sense. There were other errors as well, but do not recall those.
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