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The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
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The Lover's Dictionary

by David Levithan

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"The Lover's Dictionary" tells the story of two people and how they fell in love. It's not a retelling of how they met but rather a collection of quick moments in their lives that, some more, some less, shaped them as a couple.

Due to the fact that the story isn't told in a linear way, it is somewhat difficult to keep up with the story and it takes some getting used to. Levithan manages to make the reader connect emotionally to the narrator without even revealing his name. This is actually one of the best cases of extremely sporadic but great character building I've read about.

I imagine this to be of essential help for aspiring authors - this is how you build characters, you give them personality and not appearance, you give them quirks and not a tragic backstory. I was engaged in the story and invested and I wanted desperately to know what was going to happen.

I rooted for the story to continue the traditional way, marriage, kids et cetera, but again Levithan stays far away from the norm. That's what I love about his novels, that he doesn't try but always ends up on the unconventional, unexplored pathways. The special thing about this novel isn't the fact that the two proatgonists remain nameless, but the format. It's told in dictionary entries. While this might sound extremely strange and make people back away from this novel, I can assure you that you're missing something. When I discovered it in the bookstore and saw the name of the author on it, I just knew that I had to take the risk - because Levithan knows what he's doing and hasn't disappointed me so far.

"The Lover's Dictionary" can't really be described, it's not a story, it's more of a feeling. It's not your typical everyday novel that's why this review is lacking individual ratings. It can be read in a day or over the course of weeks, the effect stays the same. I fell in love with the characters the way they fell in love - entry after entry. Levithan uses mostly difficult words in this, I was lucky to be reading the novel in a foreign language anyways, so I didn't have to look anything up, because it was all translated from English. Some of the words I never would have understood because they're sometimes extremely old-fashioned and even pretentious, but the effect stays the same.

I was a bit sad that the entire plot revolves only around their love, not because it's boring to read about, but because I longed for being able to dive in more into their world. This is defnitely worth a read, maybe even multiple. Some passages were so poetic and probably even foreshadowing and I think that it is impossible to get all the references during your first read.

Overall: Do I Recommend?

Yes I do. I know this novel might not be for everyone, this is why I don't explicitly put this on my recommendations page, but I know that for everyone that is a risk-taker - this might be exactly what you're looking for. "The Lover's Dictionary" is poetic, it's more an artwork than a novel and it leaves you wirh a weird feeling. Maybe it's love. I wouldn't know.

Rating: ★★★★☆
- See more at: http://thebookavid.blogspot.de ( )
  bookavid | Oct 16, 2014 |
The Lover’s Dictionary Review
The Lover’s Dictionary is a love story written through short dictionary entries for words that relate to the story that the narrator is telling the reader about. The story tells the tale of a man who needs to find someone in his life to settle down with, falls in love with a girl, has his heart broken by her cheating, and learns to work through it with her. The story teaches the reader that when life throws you a curveball, you have to step into the pitch and hit it to the opposite field. You can’t stand around and let someone control your life and make your decisions for you, especially when they almost ruined your relationship with each other because of some guy that she met in a bar in Texas. And everything that happens in your life, will eventually just become a story to tell that can be described with one word. When I read this story, I was intrigued by how detailed the author imagines this relationship between two fictional characters. Everything is said in a way that makes this mostly irregular relationship sound like the most interesting, adaptive couple I’ve ever heard of. I was extremely interested in how the author chose to format this book. I have never seen anything like it, with such a simple idea as writing it like a dictionary but it was written so comprehensively that I couldn’t stop reading once I started. One thing that I didn’t like was the lack of character depth, and while I had the general understand of what the two were like, much of who they were to me came from my ideas of what they would be like.
  ZacharyMp6 | Oct 8, 2014 |
I was so disappointed in this because first it had an average of 4 stars and very nice reviews, it looked very original and it sounded just like my cup of tea. Turns out, I wholeheartedly hated it. I wish I got the paperback version so I could shred it into tiny pieces.

I recently read “I wrote this to you” and I don’t know if the two of them are even comparable but The Lover’s Dictionary sounded like a pathetic, much staler version of IWTFY. There were so many problems with this I don’t even know where to start, I actually didn’t mind that much that the story was almost non-existent, I think that what annoyed me the most is that the words, the story, the telling, there was absolutely nothing not even remotely valuable – not even remotely good - about them, it sounded just like a really, really failed attempt at writing an original story about romance, thus there is absolutely no reason to read something like this. Maybe I missed something because I honestly don’t understand all the hype.

My favorite word out of all the 200 pages or so was Zenith because that meant that this less-than-ordinary boring nonsense was finally over. (Actually no that’s not true, my favorite word was probably acknowledgments).

Since Levithan is so fond of dictionary entries I’ll give you some to describe this.. this (I don’t know how to call it):

PRETENTIOUS (adj,)
POINTLESS (adj.)
UNINTERESTING (adj.)
REDUNDANT (adj.)
And last but not least (This probably isn’t in the dictionary but bear with me for a second will ya): BLA BLA BLA (noun probably)
DID I SAY REDUNDANT ALREADY?

I wasn’t even halfway through it and I already wanted to shoot myself in the face, but I somehow managed to go on and get to the end.

I’ll let the thing speak for itself:

defunct, adj.
You brought home a typewriter for me.


Mh, ok.


disarray, n.
At times, I feel like I’m living with a ninety-year-old, finding a box of crackers in the laundry hamper, or a pair of socks by the vodka. Sometimes I tell you where I found things, and we joke about it. Other times, I just put them back.


Really? Tell me more. For instance WHY SHOULD THIS EVEN INTEREST ME? It’s not romantic, it’s not entertaining, it’s not witty, it’s just humdrum jibber-jabber.


detachment, n.

I still don’t know if this is a good quality or a bad one, to be able to be in the moment and then step out of it. Not just during sex, or while talking, or kissing. I don’t deliberately pull away — I don’t think I do — but I find myself suddenly there on the outside, unable to lose myself in where I am. You catch me sometimes. You’ll say I’m drifting off, and I’ll apologize, trying to snap back to the present.
But I should say this:
Even when I detach, I care. You can be separate from a thing and still care about it. If I wanted to detach completely, I would move my body away. I would stop the conversation midsentence. I would leave the bed. Instead, I hover over it for a second. I glance off in another direction. But I always glance back at you.


What? NO. This is just wrong on so many levels


disabuse, v.
I love the idea that an abuse can be negated. And that the things most often disabused are notions.
.

What’s happening what does this even have to do with anything


flux, n.
The natural state. Our moods change. Our lives change. Our feelings for each other change. Our bearings change. The song changes. The air changes. The temperature of the shower changes.
Accept this. We must accept this.


You don’t say? My mind is blown.


I, n.
Me without anyone else.


Ok this is getting ridiculous. (But to be fair that one actually made me laugh out loud.)

I could go on but I think I made my point.

On the brighter side since every page was a dictionary entry I learned a few words I didn’t know. My favorite one was “lackluster” because it perfectly describes this hideous story or whatever it was.

Please, for me, go read something worth your time. You’ll avoid the grief of looking back at the one/two hours of reading you’ll never get back.

P.S. I just saw that this is on the same shelf (of “readers also enjoyed”) of Attachments and I want to jump out a window.
( )
  kairih | Aug 30, 2014 |
A pretty standard offering from David Levithan, but since I love him, I'm more than okay with that. Breaking down a relationship into small vignettes related to a particular vocabulary word was fun, and still managed to paint a very thorough picture of a troubled relationship.

A quote I loved "I'd get a tattoo with your name on it, but I want you to have the freedom to change your name if you want to." After I finished awwwing over this, it upset me. Is there such a thing as relationship porn? Descriptions of romance so perfect they're unrealistic, forever setting us up to be disappointed by everyday life? This quote feels like this to me. ( )
  drhapgood | Jul 27, 2014 |
"At the core of this desire is the belief that everything can be perfect." ( )
  PamZaragoza | Jun 27, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374193681, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2011: In his first book for adults, popular young-adult novelist David Levithan creates a beautifully crafted exploration of the insecurities, tenderness, anger, and contented comfort that make romantic relationships so compelling (or devastating). Through sparingly written, alphabetical entries that defy chronology in defining a love affair, The Lover’s Dictionary packs an emotional wallop. For "breathtaking (adj.)," the unnamed narrator explains, "Those moments when we kiss and surrender for an hour before we say a single word." For "exacerbate (v.)," he notes, "I believe your exact words were: 'You’re getting too emotional.'" Ranging from over a page to as short as "celibacy (n.), n/a," the definitions-as-storyline alternate between heart-wrenching and humorous--certainly an achievement for a book structured more like Webster’s than a traditional novel. Proving that enduring characters and conflict trump word count, Levithan’s poignant vignettes and emotional candor will remind readers that sometimes in both fiction and life, less is truly more--and the personal details of love can be remarkably universal. --Jessica Schein

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with David Levithan

Q: What inspired you to write The Lover’s Dictionary?

Levithan: Every year for the past 23 years, I’ve written a story for my friends for Valentine’s Day. It started when I was a junior in high school and remarkably bored in my physics class--I decided to go through the physics book and find all the romantic references I could (opposites attracting, magnetism, etc), and turn it into a love story. My friends liked it, and the next year, they demanded a new story for Valentine’s Day. A tradition (or, at least, a deadline) was born.

Two years ago, I hit February 1st and I hadn’t started writing my Valentine’s Day story. I had a few ideas, but none were kicking in. I sat down at my desk to thing something up, and right by an elbow was a book I’d recently recovered from my parents’ basement--a book of “words you need to know” that I’d been given as a gift (probably for my high school graduation). I thought it might be interesting to take random words from that book, in alphabetical order, and tell the story of a relationship through those words, in dictionary form. I didn’t plan any of it out--I let the words tell the story. And two weeks later, I had the story version of The Lover’s Dictionary.

Q: How (if at all) was the experience of writing what is classified as an adult novel different from writing a young adult novel? Did you approach the emotion of love differently?

Levithan: I didn’t approach this book any differently from my other books. Because, really, the emotions don’t change. Perspective changes (a little, sometimes not even a little), but the emotions are still there. Yes, the twenty-something characters in The Lover’s Dictionary are facing some issues most teens don’t face--moving in together, paying rent. But most of what they’re feeling is merely a continuation of the emotions that come to the fore when you’re a teenager--wanting to belong, wanting to understand yourself, wanting to understand the person you love, wanting to know what love is. I’d love to say that when we become adults we stop being insecure, that we have answers, that we know the right words for the right moments. But that’s simply not true.

Q: Were there any words/definitions that didn’t make it in to the final book?

Levithan: Not that many. I just went back to the first draft and found one:

haggle, v. There was no way I was letting the Atlanta Braves lamp to our apartment, and you said, fine, then my lunchbox collection could go back to my parents’ basement, where it belonged.

I’m not even sure why it didn’t make the cut. Maybe there were already too many entries about decorating the apartment.

Q: The Lover’s Dictionary isn’t a linear story and is organized alphabetically, much like a traditional reference dictionary. How (if at all) did you change your writing process knowing that it would unfold this way?

Levithan: I loved writing in a nonlinear way. Because it feels to me like a more accurate way of how we recount relationships. They never come back to us as a narrative, told beginning-middle-end. Whether it’s over or ongoing, we remember it in flashes. Different moments from the past hit us at different moments in the present. So when the narrator sits down to recount the relationship to the lover, it makes sense to me that the relationship would appear to him in this way, with the words as the catalyst for the memories, and the memories adding up to the truth.

Q: Why did you decide to write the novel in first person, directed at a second person?

Levithan: The act of writing the book (for the narrator) is as much a part of the story as the story itself. I don’t want to explain the book too much, so I can leave it at that. And I wanted it to play like a love song you hear on the radio--the most effective love songs are somehow both specific and universal. You feel you are hearing someone else’s story, but at the same time you relate to it so much that their story doesn’t preclude your story. I wanted The Lover’s Dictionary to be like that.

Q: Describe how you feel about writing in three words.

Levithan: Wonderment. Curiosity. Random.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:33 -0400)

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A modern love story told through a series of dictionary-style entries is a sequence of intimate windows into the large and small events that shape the course of a romantic relationship.

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