‘Love Stories’ by Trent Dalton

2021, 333 p.

So there’s a thought. A published author sets himself up on a Brisbane city street with a folding table and a blue Olivetti typewriter, with a sign reading ‘Sentimental Writer Collecting Love Stories’ and waits for people to come and talk to him. And talk to him they do – 42 of them – and he writes their love stories up for them, and for us. Most of them are only about three pages in length, although some are longer, and one extends over two parts widely separated in the book.

I must confess that I can barely remember any of them afterwards. These are not great epics: they are often everyday and quotidian, and there are as many love stories that break up as there are love stories that last a lifetime. You get the sense- and perhaps this is Dalton’s intention- that nearly everyone has a love story of some description in them, no matter how tarnished it may seem from the outside.

I must be about the only person in the world who has not read Boy Swallows Universe and so I didn’t come to this book with a reservoir of affection and goodwill towards the author earned through enjoying an earlier novel. The book could have been cut in half: it could just as easily have been extended to double its length. There is no rhythm or build up in the argument, instead it is just the addition of one story after another after another, as if rolling the paper out of the typewriter and adding it to the pile. For me, it felt a bit like a newspaper column, and I found myself wondering if it were, whether I would seek out the column each day. I suspect not. I think that the earnestness and wide-eyed wonder would pall after a while.

One fact (as distinct from a story) did stay with me, though : that the average hug is less than 3 seconds. Coming from a family of huggers, I would like to think that our hugs last longer than that.

My rating: 6.5

Sourced from: Yarra Plenty Regional Library

2 responses to “‘Love Stories’ by Trent Dalton

  1. No, you are not the only reader in the universe. I decided early on that Boy Swallows Universe was not for me, gave in to the nagging (and the mild disapproval) and bought a copy, and shortly afterwards it left the premises unread. I do not do sentimental.
    Having said that, I do think there is a place for fiction to acknowledge that most people have a love story. Some lucky people like me have two. But an author of any talent does more than simply collect them, and especially not from a self-selected cohort.
    With British genes, I’m not very good at hugs, but I’m quite sure that post-lockdown hugs with the Offspring last longer than three seconds…

  2. My family will also keep the average hug length low. Thankfully I married into a hugging family, so have made up for it since 🙂

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