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The Development

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  329 ratings  ·  66 reviews
From one of our most celebrated masters, a touching, comic, deeply humane collection of linked stories about surprising developments in a gated community

“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
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published October 7th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2008)
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3.43  · 
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 ·  329 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Jan 27, 2013 added it
Recommends it for: "John Barth"
Recommended to Nathan "N.R." by: Who hasn't?
What does an Old-Fart-Emeritus Postmodernist write? Old-Fart-Stories. Fiction. Still. “John Barth” has certainly softened up in his (currently) penultimate work of fiction, The Development, a collection of nine shorts about geezers. Boring people, sure. Cardboard? Objection noted. There’s “Barth” (still) in here {story: “The Bard” shall not be bypassed; you Writing Workshop nerds, esp., need this one as do you perhaps who’ve read that thing I’ve heard about? “Westward the SomethingSomething”?} B ...more
I'm more than surprised at how much I enjoyed this collection of stories. I've rarely found my taste for disparate tellings, but these in here have a continuity to them and an undeniable logic. Honestly, Barth is a really good writer and I'm so happy to have discovered him! I'm more than sure I'll pick up some of his other works. He has a very distinct, sarcastic voice for an American writer, and an authentic one to say the least. While other authors tend to resemble each other, he is very speci ...more
Jul 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people over 45, Barth fans
Disclaimer: John Barth has been my very favorite writer in the whole entire world for the past 30 years. It is doubtful that I could write a really objective review. However, that being said:

I liked “The Development” much better than recent efforts like “Coming Soon” and “Where Three Roads Meet,” but it is clearly not in the same league with Barth’s great mid-career masterpieces like “The SotWeed Factor,” “Chimera,” or even the similarly linked- story-formatted “On With the Story.”

In “The Devel
Aiden Heavilin
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it

I live in the suburbs, not a gated-community or anything, but a pleasant little development next to a railroad (the train whirs by twice a day). I must say I get a tad annoyed with writers always trying to demonstrate the "dark side" of Suburbia, about all the "monsters and secrets" lying hidden behind picket fences. It's like writers can't conceive that a suburb might possibly me normal, it has to be crawling with secrets and murders and conspiracies.

Barth gently plays up the absurdities of th
Matthew Allard
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
Oh, I just didn't "get" this. Maybe because I'm not nearly as far-flung along in life as all of the stories' inhabitants? I didn't like its randomness, the chaos of each of the voices telling various accounts of things. I didn't like how the "fourth wall" or whatever was repeatedly broken as the writers referred both to themselves and then also to me, the reader. There were also too many couples to keep track of and stories that unspooled to the point where the narrator then says either a) I'm n ...more
Jan 31, 2009 rated it liked it
This book was a rollercoaster ride for me, and I don't necessarily mean that as a compliment. Of late, under circumstances that he may or may not have explained, Lord Barth has undertaken the effort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Like the protagonist of his own The Tidewater Tales, Barth has developed from the tome-novelist to the producer of short work. While his productions of late (at least in book form) have not been anything like "The Olive" from his ficitonal counterpart, the latest offering ...more
Jan 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
I give this book 3 stars based on how much it interested and delighted me. It's hard to give this book so few stars, because it's a great book, so I gave it four. It made me think, it resonated with me when I think about the peer group of my parents, and also myself as I age and talk more and more about property values with my ever less intimate friends.

The development is a place like many in the states, a restricted access suburbs where people who have made it who are 40+, but generally 60+, g
Haven Fairfield
Dec 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
I almost forgot that I had read this book earlier this year and that just kills me. I have this 'thing' for John Barth- I'm convinced he's brilliant and one of America's most important authors, living or dead. Giles Goat Boy, The End of the Road and The Floating Opera are very important books to me. I read them in college. Someone must have told me that Mr. Barth is a genius and it stuck. Having said all of that, let me tell you that I was thoroughly disappointed by The Development. Barth's narr ...more
Jul 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: incomplete
Ugh. Couldn't get into the stories. Stopped at page 70.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a delightful romp through this gated community of late-middle-agers! The stories are so much fun to read (both baudy and witty), all while poking fun at suburbia. All of the elements of suburban neighborhoods are present: the annoying barking dog, faulty electric entrance gates, the nonconforming McMansion, homeowners associations, friction over Christmas trees and decorations, progressive dinners, automobiles as status symbols, etc.

While all of these things brought me much amusement, it is
Anthony R. Vecchiarelli
Crap. Really, Crap. What is the purpose or value of Barth's asinine self consciousness? In one story he approaches the end and, instead of ending it, he offers three possible endings. In another he ends by telling readers that it's just a story they have read, it is not real, there are no characters, or a setting. These stories are like stuffed toys that have been cut open so the stuffing falls out. This writer is not doing his job. Readers know they are reading works of fiction. Readers know a ...more
Cathryn Conroy
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, what a fun (and funny!) exposé of life in an affluent gated community among those who are retired or almost-retired. From peeping toms to progressive dinners, John Barth's pointed and highly-creative satire told in nine interrelated short stories is a joy to read.

Each story is told by (or focuses on) a different resident in Heron Bay Estates, located in the fictional town of Stratford in the fictional county of Avon on the very real Eastern Shore of Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay. It's a
Doctor Moss
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
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.
Edward Rathke
Sep 16, 2011 rated it liked it
A wry look at elderly white upper-middle class liberals living [and dying] in a gated community, The Development is surely not for everyone.

And I'm likely one of those people.

This is my first look at John Barth and, as I understand it, probably the wrong place to start, given the subject matter. For me, and I imagine for many, this is not a demographic of much interest, and so many of the stories kind of drag longer than they are, hit less than they're meant to. Partially, yes, this is surely ge
Kristin Lieber
Jan 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
I give this book 3 stars based on how much it interested and delighted me. It's hard to give this book so few stars, because it's a great book, so I gave it four. It made me think, it resonated with me when I think about the peer group of my parents, and also myself as I age and talk more and more about property values with my ever less intimate friends.

The development is a place like many in the states, a restricted access suburbs where people who have made it who are 40+, but generally 60+, g
Michael Estey
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it

What a nightmare.

The Development is collection of short stories about a certain gated housing community on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Chesepeak Bay. Called Heron Bay Estates.

The community has strict codes, made up of mostly retired, white, middle income WASP folk. They have concerns about the gate. For reasons left up to you, whether to keep people out or keep themselves in.

The first story, "Peeping Tom". (My personal favourite). It causes such a fright! No wonder he opens with it.
The s
Kathryn Bashaar
Oct 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Most of these stories had strong metafiction elements, which didn't really work for me. But, there is one story in this collection that just blew me away: Toga Party. The ending is shocking at first, and then it hits you: the whole story was marching relentlessly towards this EXACT ending. All of the stories have to do with retired or near-retired older people living in a gated community in Maryland. SOMEBODY PLEASE JUST STAB ME and put me out of my misery if my life is as empty as theirs when I ...more
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
From the porch Chuck Becker adds loudly, "God bless us all! And God bless America!"

Several voices murmur "Amen." Looking up and away with a sigh of mild annoyance, Peter Simpson happens at just that moment to see a meteor streak left to right across the moonless, brightly constellated eastern sky.

So what? he asks himself.

So nothing.

I can't decide if these stories are (in the words of Daniel Green) a "clear-eyed indictment of the very middle-class lifestyle to which almost all of the characters
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pacific-u-mfa
Barth’s nine linked stories about neighbors in a gated development in coastal Maryland feels fresh and irreverent. In “Peeping Tom,” a neighbor says, “Are you suggesting . . . that we want to be peeped at on the potty?” and as readers, we know the answer is yes. A frisson of danger livens up this crew of mostly retired couples settled in their routines. In “Toga Party,” when Sam, a grieving widower, turns “fall on your knees” from the Christmas carol “O Holy Night” to “fall on your swords,” at f ...more
Christopher Sutch
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
This collection contains some of Barth's best work in over a decade. Especially good was his story "Toga Party," with its evocation of the problems of growing older in America and its shocking double twist ending (really reminded me of his novels of the 1980s). The joy of this book of interrelated stories set in a housing development off of the Chesapeake is following the story arcs of different characters you've come to know through previous stories as they play out through the point of view of ...more
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
A short read with 167 pages but I took longer than I should have to read it BC I just didn't care for the characters or stories too much. I did like some of the twists in some of them, like at the end of Toga Party, but still didn't really connect or care for the ACTUAL story or conversations going on. It also bugged me that for some he didn't give you an ending but different options. I would give him a three star for the experimental was interesting and annoying at times. This
Kathryn McCary
There comes a point in every author's career, it seems, when s/he is relying on technique more than passion--a product of aging. Trust Barth to use that (whether or not consciously) as part of the core of his latest work, a series of short stories whose characters live in a gated community on the Maryland shore. The first two are fine stories in the ordinary realist tradition, proof that the master can in fact still turn them out. . .but then things get decidedly skewed in favor of an examinatio ...more
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it
My aversion to the sort of "Aw hell old chap" Hardly-Boys-from-South-Park way that Barth's rich Marylanders talk is documented elsewhere. Barth's repeated exercises in writing a John Barth, full of narrative tricks, (over)enthusiasm for capital-s Story, and copulation, have such an up-and-down quality that the reader begins to have the queasy feeling in front of John Barth (John Barth!) of filial condescension. The situation is as when our fathers just cannot pronounce the names of the Eastern E ...more
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
At age 78, John Barth remains a marvel of fiction and one of the most underrated giants of literature in the last century. In his technically-short-stories-but-connected-enough-to-be-considered-a-novel collection, The Development, Barth creates a world of over-the-hill Maryland upper-class intellectuals in their pristine retirement community, dealing with problems ranging from a rampant peeping tom to suicide of their members. David Foster Wallace was heavily influenced by Barth's work, and you ...more
Nov 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
The townhouses of Heron Bay Estates, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, mostly cater to older folks who want something smaller than a freestanding house but who aren't quite ready for the retirement home. But through small events like a toga party or sightings of a local Peeping Tom, the residents experience both the pleasures and the indignities of old age. The loosely linked stories that form The Development play with not only the format but with readers' expectations; both long-time fans of author ...more
Jul 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
I read one of the stories ('Toga Party') in this book in a collection edited by Stephen King; that shoulda told me something. Mr. Barth has been my favorite author for some decades now. I was able to hear, see, and speak with him briefly when he came to NCSU maybe 5 years ago. I wanted to tell him that I was influenced by his writing, to learn French and to sail. This work will mean little to most but I am struck by the echo of my places and my times, right there in the stories making up "The De ...more
Mike Klein
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
First a complaint, there is a couple of comments on my edition of the book that implied the author is a great comic writer. That may be true in other stories but not these. (There are a few smiles here and there but it is not comedy.) It is a bunch of related short stories that are almost a novel. It also seems to be an experiment by an experienced author in the short story form. Sort of how Picasso messed with perspective, Barth messes with all sorts of things. With a lesser author there might ...more
Thomas Litchford
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read one of these stories ("Toga Party") years ago in a Best Short Fiction of Whatever Year anthology, and finally came back to read the rest of the collection. I was immediately drawn in by Barth's command of language and voice. He writes with absolute confidence and authority. The stories range from fairly straightforward tales of retirement community residents to more experimental, playful fictions that challenge the reader to guess who the "true" narrator really is, or who the fictional au ...more
Jul 07, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a collection of short stories linked by the fact that they are all set in a very fine housing development on the east coast. Most of the occupants of The Development are seniors. The writing is great, most times amusing and sometimes sad. Just like growing older, with some interesting twists along the way. I didn't give it a four because the author gets pretty long-winded at times but that's also just fine for retirees.
Debbie Sershon
Mar 23, 2012 rated it liked it
John Barth can be a challenge to read, because of his freeform style. This book tends to stay very superficial (or appears to, because of what is not directly said). But I never stopped reading it, even when I had to go back and check on previous mentions of character to clarify one of the chapters. This is unusual for me, since I don't believe I should have to work through/around an author's quirkiness (or his lack of an editor) to find the story. Usually...but this time I did just that.
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GRL Review 1 5 Feb 07, 2009 01:31PM  

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John Simmons Barth is an American novelist and short-story writer, known for the postmodernist and metafictive quality of his work.

John Barth was born in Cambridge, Maryland, and briefly studied "Elementary Theory and Advanced Orchestration" at Juilliard before attending Johns Hopkins University, receiving a B.A. in 1951 and an M.A. in 1952 (for which he wrote a thesis novel, The Shirt of Nessus).