Wide Eyed by Trinie Dalton
Trinie Dalton's Wide Eyed, the latest installment in Dennis Cooper’s Little House on the Bowery series, is a short story collection that pushes the imagination envelope. To call this collection eclectic is to call rain wet. It’s an adventure through random musings expertly crafted into short stories. It’s a glimpse into a head you wish was your own, if only temporarily.
Dalton’s stories include a medley of characters, a majority of them feathered or furry -- humming birds, dogs, cats, hamsters, sharks, Chewbacca (yes, the wookie), unicorns, snakes, salamanders, skunks, bobcats -- as well as boyfriends, girlfriends and parents. Subjects are as random as the characters: mushroom hunting, cleaning out grandma’s house, night gardening, drugs, swimming with wild creatures, and Burger Time video game parties. While these stories aren’t what typically come to mind when discussing short fiction, they should. They are full of realistic dialogue, clear scenes, thoughtful scenarios and unique conflicts for characters to work through. In one instance, a pistol-toting ex who likes to watch women vomit creates an awkward moment and the narrator thinks he might kill her. In attempt to save herself she makes out with him. And forces herself to vomit.
All 20 shorts are in first person, but they feel more intimate, more honest than mere stories, like Dalton’s sitting cross-legged on your couch talking directly to you. You listen to all the weird things that happen in her stories and feel a partial ownership of them because you connect with her, you can somehow relate. While the stories are fiction, it’s difficult not to picture Dalton as the narrators -- you want the stories to be real despite their absurdities or truisms. And believing in them isn’t so difficult with Dalton’s frankness and introspections. “Sometimes when I wake up, I’ll kiss my dog’s snout, but it unnerves me to think of the trash and hairy testicles it’s been rooting around in.”
Her unique voice is obvious in each story despite subject matter and the occasional unreliable narrator. But that’s part of the joy of her stories, too. Philosophical overtones in one or two stories slows reading and encourages mental meandering, though the more magical stories pull double-duty and make up for them.
Wide Eyed is a wild, mixed bag of story with something for everyone. Some stories are more fantasy than others, but the book mostly reads like a diary, the kind of diary where you can’t help but occasionally question what the writer was smoking. From the humorous “Bienvenido el Duende” -- a letter exchange between the narrator and one of Santa’s elves -- to the more serious and realistic “Sinners,” Dalton keeps pages turning. With each story averaging approximately nine pages, Dalton’s sometimes-fantastic, sometimes-realistic adventures are over before you know it. What you’re left with is a desire for more adventure, more characters, and more honesty.
Wide Eyed by Trinie Dalton