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Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
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Lover's Dictionary (edition 2012)

by David Levithan

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905809,748 (3.94)31
Member:mjspear
Title:Lover's Dictionary
Authors:David Levithan
Info:Fourth Estate (2012), Paperback, 244 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

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» See also 31 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
Snooooze. I thought this was a brilliant idea. A novel written in definitions (of sorts).
But it didn't work for me. It could have been more interesting if he hadn't tried to be so clever. And smart.

I had the feeling that Levithan was nudging me and nodding each time I turned the page: "Did you get that? See how clever I am?"
I am not impressed. ( )
  imahorcrux | Jun 22, 2016 |
This is a series of dictionary-style reflections on a relationship, but they're so elegantly crafted that I actually want to put them in the category of prose poems. Some are longer and could almost be called vignettes, but others are just pithy word-snapshots:

buffoonery, n.

You were drunk, and I made the mistake of mentioning Showgirls in a near-empty subway car. The pole had no idea what it was about to endure.

That's not even close to my favorite entry, by the way, but I'd rather let you discover the most poignant ones yourself. I love the way a whole story unfolds through these alphabetically listed words.

In other words, I'd like to have written this first. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
Appropriate, although entirely coincidental, that I read this book in the week leading up to Valentine's Day. ( )
  vivaval | Feb 15, 2016 |
It's been a long time since I've encountered a book that's moved me as much as The Lover's Dictionary has. I knew from page 1 that I'd end up treasuring it, mainly because I've anticipated it for so long and finally just sat down and picked it up—which I'm not sure why I didn't do sooner, since it's such a short read. Being a frequent retweeter from the book's Twitter page, I had high expectations with this one, and honestly, every single one of them were met.

Writing this review is proving to be difficult because The Lover's Dictionary's format and plot layout are both quite unusual. The obvious novelty of this story is that it's not narrated traditionally with chapters, but rather through individual dictionary entries, in second person by an unnamed protagonist to his lover. The whammy is that these little vignettes are arranged alphabetically, not chronologically—as dictionaries tend to be organized—so the lovers' story is non-linear, and is rather told in sporadic moments with which anyone who's been in love will be able to relate: frustration, butterflies, doubt, insecurity, optimism about the future, exasperation, elation. Each entry is its own story, spare on words but regardless extremely high-impact.

This non-chronological sequence of events is far from confusing or difficult to read, however; somehow, Levithan still makes it work because the story itself does not require a definitive beginning or end. All we know is that there is a couple, there is a conflict, and there is no clean resolution—because in real life, there hardly ever is. That's what I think makes it so potent; its implications regarding the ineffability of love are so relatable, so real.

The plot itself isn't necessarily a sweeping romance, nor a particularly profound love story—that's not why I love this book. In fact, the dictionary entries, while beautifully crafted, are vague and often unsettling, but each of them packs a strong punch. I was sucked in immediately because the main problem is introduced so early on, but it's only unraveled as you read further down the alphabet. The inevitable doom of the relationship's tragedy is always hanging in the air, impending, and the distressing feeling that it probably won't have a tidy tucked-away ending will constantly stick with you. You'll either be enchanted by Levithan's interpretation of each word, or find yourself relating to each on a near-spiritual level; there isn't a single page that I didn't like in this novel.

Pros: Touching, breathtaking // Relatable in the subtlest aspects that everyone notices in relationships, but don't necessarily always put to words // Portrays love beautifully, humanly // Unusual concept of book structure, but I found it clever and very absorbing // Conveys a realistic view of a romance, as deep and exhausting as it may be—they don't always "end" like they do in books and movies // A very quick read, since each "chapter" is composed of one dictionary entry (1-2 pages each)

Cons: Not a problem with the book itself, but with my inability to express with words how great it is: my review and the back cover synopsis do not do it justice!

Verdict: Remarkable in ways that my own words fail to sufficiently articulate, The Lover's Dictionary is a comforting, candid, and devastating characterization of love, and the parallel irony to ever be able to adequately write about it. If I don't have you convinced, check out the corresponding Twitter page for a more succinct preview of what the book is like. David Levithan has an extensive fan base for valid reason; his grasp on the written word is adept, his understanding of the human tendency to fall in love with flaws is painfully accurate, and when his dictionary entries are pieced together, the end result is simultaneously witty and evocative. This is the kind of book I wish I could write: a subtle masterpiece and a hefty accomplishment.

Rating: 10 out of 10 hearts (5 stars): I'm speechless; this book is an extraordinarily amazingly wonderfully fantastically marvelous masterpiece. Drop everything and go buy yourself a copy now!

Source: Purchased. ( )
  stephanieloves | Jan 4, 2016 |
A beautiful exploration of trying to make a relationship work. ( )
  CatherineJay | Dec 30, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Levithanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Steinhöfel, AndreasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:21 -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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