Like a good bottle of Single Malt Love Stories is a book to be savoured and read slowly at one’s pleasure. In this book, Dalton has taken a topic as old as humanity itself, love, and given it his own spin.
For two months in 2021, just after pandemic restrictions had eased Dalton sat at the corner of Ann and Edward St in Brisbane with an Olivetti typewriter, a BCF camping table and a sign that read ‘Sentimental writer collecting love stories. The result is a collection of anecdotes and vignettes from passers-by that are sometimes funny, often poignant, occasionally cheesy and a bit sentimental, but at their best deeply moving.
There is no plot, or hero binding these stories together and most are only four or five pages in length which means that Dalton is required to use all his journalistic, poetic and narrative skills to weave together a cohesive narrative across 333 pages. Inevitably this results in the book being filled with Dalton’s own commentary on the role that love plays in shaping both individual lives and the broader world. As Dalton says to Fe Brown who sells orchids at the Brisbane markets every Wednesday
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.
And Fe Brown replies:
Love is beautiful.
One of Love Stories strengths is Dalton’s ability to capture and describe the wide range eccentric characters he meets. Characters like Reuben Vui, a benevolent Kiwi with leaf-shaped fragments of his grandparents’ wedding rings permanently fixed to his teeth; the Rwandan busker, Jean-Benoit Lagarmitte, who survived being abandoned under a tree as a baby and is now travelling the world, making his living as a busker. There is also the man who has been blind for 30 years and longs to see his wife’s face and Moana who tells her love story in the time it takes to smoke her last Winfield Blue. All are described with a mixture of humour and empathy. Taken collectively these characters also provide us with an alternative vision of who comprises Brisbane’s population from the popular image of the city being filled with hassled suburbanites.
Some of the most moving parts of the book are when Dalton talks about what love means to him, how he met his wife Fiona, and his love for his daughters. Which is followed later in the book by Fiona, talking about her love for Trent.
Part of Love Stories appeal for me is that it arrived when I was trying to deal with chronic pain in my hip. I needed a lift and Love Stories made me smile and gave me a ray of hope which got me thinking how much we enjoy a book ,often depends on our mood and where we are up to life.
Love Stories was the perfect gift for me at this particular time in my life.