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Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

Lover's Dictionary (edition 2012)

by David Levithan

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7426912,554 (3.97)31
Title:Lover's Dictionary
Authors:David Levithan
Info:Fourth Estate (2012), Paperback, 244 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan


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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 |
This is a very delicate book, one you can read in an afternoon or even over the course of a particularly long soak in the tub. I had first heard of [a:David Levithan|11664|David Levithan|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1208616138p2/11664.jpg] from [b:Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist|944704|Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist|Rachel Cohn|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1285417791s/944704.jpg|929639] and his other Young Adult literature, so I wasn't expecting such an adult book.

[b:The Lover's Dictionary|9279177|The Lover's Dictionary|David Levithan|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51q8FyOHJSL._SL75_.jpg|12922551] is exactly what it sounds like: a dictionary of words relating to lovers. But woven into snippets of conversation, tiny scenes, and cryptic accounts of both lovemaking and arguments is a timeline of a relationship, and by the end we're not sure whether it's a love affair that culminated in a marriage or crumbled into obsolescence.

In many ways, its format reminded me of both [a:Amy Krouse Rosenthal|21674|Amy Krouse Rosenthal|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1220138789p2/21674.jpg]'s [b:Encyclopaedia of an Ordinary Life|6225706|Encyclopaedia of an Ordinary Life|Amy Krouse Rosenthal|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41or5KlM0qL._SL75_.jpg|39574] and [a:Dorothy Allison|5599|Dorothy Allison|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1203572721p2/5599.jpg]'s [b:Two or Three Things I Know for Sure|91873|Two or Three Things I Know for Sure|Dorothy Allison|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1223646702s/91873.jpg|965422] -- both of which are nonfiction. This isn't an accident, as [b:The Lover's Dictionary|9279177|The Lover's Dictionary|David Levithan|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51q8FyOHJSL._SL75_.jpg|12922551] has very much of a nonfiction feel. Even having read it twice, I'm not sure which elements are fictional and which are plucked from Levithan's life.

Ultimately, this is one of the more creative works of fiction I've read this year. I'm late coming to the [a:David Levithan|11664|David Levithan|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1208616138p2/11664.jpg] party, but I'm planning to read the rest of his books -- he has a good soul, so it seems, and even YA books can teach me (and us all) lessons about life as an adult, if only by remembering just what it felt like before life got lifey.

( )
  Seven.Stories.Press | Jun 13, 2014 |
I really enjoyed this book, it was written in such an original quirky way, and I really enjoyed the change from the traditional narrative. It was very clever, and I liked that we got little glimpses into this relationship.
Really enjoyed it.

For a longer review, please visit my website at http://thebooktower.webs.com ( )
  bookish92 | Mar 20, 2014 |
This book is written as dictionary entries. There is one word that begins the page with subsequent description. It is not your typical word definition - it is how life would describe that word. I enjoyed the concept of the book. I enjoyed the story. I felt that, even though it does not go in chronological order (because it goes in alphabetical order instead), I understood the events that unfolded. It is not as filled with emotion as some of the other works that I have read, but it is a beautiful story. ( )
  alb2219 | Mar 12, 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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