Love, the common denominator of the wild existence we find ourselves in. You surely love someone, or something, or somewhere – we love boldly, with anticipation. It’s the tsunami and the undercurrent, the flower and dirt, the sun and the rain. It’s an equaliser – at the peak of the mountain, or in the depths of the valley – there’s always love there to sucker punch you in the guts and hold you while you recover.
Love is the common denominator of Australian author Trent Dalton’s latest offering, Love Stories. For me, it’s the balm placed on a few years where the limits of love have been pushed and pulled to their very limits.
‘Love is a fistful of time you can’t get back.’Pg 19, Two Believers.
Trent Dalton’s third offering, ‘Love Stories’, explores a different side to Dalton’s fictional history – it is a non-fiction exploration of love, through stories told to him as he sat at a trestle table on the corner of Adelaide and Albert Street in Brisbane City. With a sign saying ‘sentimental writer collecting love stories’, and a type-writer in front, the premise is simple: people from all walks of life come and tell him a love story.
There isn’t a person on the planet, in the country – heck, even in your street, who hasn’t been touched by the difficulties of these last couple of years. It’s been a tremendous feat of human compassion, strength, ingenuity, and downright toughness to weather the storm, just for a glimpse of what the other side looks like.
‘Love is a stranger stepping back into the past.
Love is a stranger stepping off to work.
Love is ambiguous.
Love is lost in the weeds.
Love is found in the stars.
Love is plain as day.’Pg 128, Ambiguous Gain.
Part of ‘Love Stories’ magic is it takes this into account. The stories were collected in early 2021 – leaving space for COVID chatter – but don’t let that deter you. Stories told in pre-COVID time almost sink in with a bit of naivety – a touch of ‘God, you’ve got no idea,’ – but these people do. They tell stories of supporting and loving through COVID, what that looks like, and how it changes things. It’s another way to find yourself in the piece.
They aren’t just stories of couples getting married and living happily-ever-after, though there are some like that – they are gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, soulful stories of the riches and cavities of each and every type of love one could possibly imagine. There are parents and their kids, best friends, soulmates, widows, never-meant-to-be’s, always-meant-to-be’s, and all the complexity and nuance that lies in between.
‘Love is never knowing how lucky you are to have it.’Pg. 207, Waiting for the icicle to fall.
At its core, it really is a sentimental writer on a quest to figure out what on earth love is. Trekking alongside, we get to try and discover it too. The book holds up the magnifying glass from a birds-eye-view – and as you peek down into the glimpses of stories shared, and find bits of yourselves in the story, it clarifies what love means and is to you.
Though it exists as a collection of stories – of different people, in different places and contexts, and in different worlds, it feels – they are masterfully woven together to tell The Big Story. You circle back, connect the dots, and feel like you were in the second BCF camping chair with Trent in those weeks on the corner of Adelaide and Albert Street, sewing the edges and holding up the masterpiece. It’s a warm-the-heart type feeling.
‘Love is a river.
Love is a mountain.
Love makes you a mountaineer.’Pg 233, Cumulus People.
It’s a feeling I felt, and incessantly shared with anyone who might listen. My housemates heard me recite stories to them – ‘No, no, this one is even better than that one!’ – my mum, 2,000 kilometres away in the tippy-top of the NT heard me close the gaps – ‘Remember this person? That’s what happened!’ – and there was just me, in the light of my very yellow lamp, hiding from the world and leaping into the pages of this book.
All who read this book will find at least a slither of their own reality nestled in between the covers, and that is precisely why I love it – and precisely why you’ll love it, too. I’m wildly confident in that belief.
‘Love is fundamental.’Pg 308, Blood Chemistry.
Photos by Lara Stimpson