If you read these stories all in a row, you might feel like you are experiencing several late nights in the same woman’s life: the boyfriend is always named Matt, animals are always important and L.A. is where it’s at or where it’s been. The woman is searching for a remedy for the things that aren’t right: In ‘Hummingbird Moonshine’ it’s a series of physical hurts, in ‘The Tide of My Mounting Sympathy’ it’s a lurking mentally ill sort-of friend. Even the structure of some stories recall list making or the organizing power of prayer by presenting thoughts on a top in several numbered parts. ‘Faces’ is the best of these; most of the others, though enjoyable, feel underdone.
My favorite story, ‘Animal Story,’ contains several talismans against loneliness. The main character is out in the desert, alone, her cat having been eaten by a coyote, and she is deciding how and when to rejoining society. In the meantime, she hosts parties for spiders and ants and plays Nintendo:
“Playing Burgertime gives you this false sense of staying busy, as if you are personally responsible for delivering meat to mankind. Staving off starvation of the masses is an overwhelming task that requires total dedication. Catching the stuff on the bun takes on religious significance, as if it’s manna flowing from heaven. Don’t fuck up and drop the lettuce crooked on the burger or it will drift off the cliff beside you. As you read this you think, Who cares about Burgertime? But when you are awake all night because it’s too quiet and there’s no cat the wiggle your foot on, your deluded brain mistakes the Chef’s duties for your own. You’ll be making burgers all night sometime—just watch.”
Most of these stories are sneaky like that. Yes, Marc Bolan, Freddy Krueger and unicorns make appearances, but Dalton doesn’t use them as emotional shortcuts. Many of the stories include dreams and memories, who better to guide us through than the figures that create and inhabit those spaces?