Trent Dalton, Australia’s best-loved writer, goes out into the world and asks a simple, direct question: ‘Can you please tell me a love story?’
A friend tried to loan me this book. I said thought I wouldn’t even read it. Too cheesy. So not me (me, with a black heart as hard as flint, who never cries at movies and hates the word ‘sentimental’ with a passion). But she said she loved it, and she told me I’d love it too.
And I did. It’s actually really easy to love a book about love. As Trent Dalton tells it, in 2021, saddened and perplexed by the pandemic, he set himself up on a street corner in Brisbane with an old typewriter and a sign asking for love stories. And people stopped and told their stories. Lovers and friends, husbands and wives, parents, family, carers. Young and old. All sorts. Stories to make you laugh, cry, smile, sigh. Many varieties of love story – uplifting, sad, poignant, funny, sweet, tragic and more – were told on that corner, and Trent Dalton added some of his own along with thoughts and reflections on what he’d been told. He himself used the word ‘cheese’. And actually, cheese is quite OK.
In 1992 I was miserable. Single, heart-broken, unemployed, floundering around in a swamp of self-pity and sadness. I visited my parents, often, for tea and sympathy. In retrospect, they were probably a bit sick of this stuck, moping adult child but they didn’t show it. My 34th birthday? So what? There was nothing to look forward to. Nobody loves me. More of the same.
On the day of my birthday, Dad produced a cardboard cylinder and handed it over. It contained a drawing, a beautiful drawing of arum lilies – flowers I love – which he had done in secret, as a surprise for me. Around the rim of the vase, he lettered, “Happy Birthday Suze for 1992” but you can only see it if you look very carefully and know it is there.
I loved it then and I love it now. It’s a treasure. If the house was on fire, I’d save it. When I think of the effort, the hours taken from his own work, the planning, the hiding, the secrecy and the completeness of the surprise…
I’m a lucky woman and there are other love stories I could tell. But if I’d been on that Brisbane street corner, and seen the guy with the typewriter, this is the one.
Wow, that drawing is absolutely beautiful. What a precious thing.