She Sang to Them, She Sang, by W.D. Clarke
Pocket book 425 pages
W.D. Clarke’s She Sang for Them, She Sang is a dark comedy of modern greed masquerading as a satire on real estate; or, a commentary on the abstraction of a basic need–shelter–and the way in which its commodification has made it as bizarre and complex as first world health care.
Katie and J live in a city 90 miles from Toronto, just far enough that it’s too long a commute, and close enough that a real estate bubble can be manufactured for commuters. They begin the novel as prey to realtors Jo and Manny. By the time you have this figured out, through the masterful writing of Clarke you have gotten to know them inside out (with the exception of J, who is only presented obliquely by Katie). Clarke is interested in the same quotidian that writers of stream of consciousness are, but he renders the shaft of thought from surface to the depths through indentation and typeface, as his characters with a degree of unpredictability voice their inner thoughts whenever Clarke feels like presenting them.
Very quickly, all the main characters are known inside out, as well as their environs and their cultural contexts, as Clarke adeptly uses modern slang as well as character traits in his presentation of their inner thoughts. Here’s Jo the realtor in a foul mood:
Call her a shrew if you’d like (she’d overheard it more than once, and where do you think they got ‘shrewd’ from, hmm?), at least she wasn’t spending her life grazing in the grass, unaware of the captive bolt (now there’s a stunner) that surely awaits us all–and all the more quickly if we await our turn…”
This method energizes Clarke’s prose, allows all manner of allusions and jokes, without sacrificing the characterization that supercedes the plot, which, all in all, is rather simple, if satisfying (depending on your taste. The publisher recommends sardonic sensibilities and delight in folly).
She Sang for Them, She Sang is an original, engaging, intelligent book by a master of prose.