Book Recommendation: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
There is a point in The Lover’s Dictionary, tucked away somewhere in the middle of the story, where the author seems to dismiss the entire novel. He claims that trying to write about love is a futile exercise, similar to describing life using dictionary definitions. Yet the novel continues.
In essence, the concept behind The Lover’s Dictionary is a simple one—the story of a couple’s ups and downs constructed in dictionary format. Before I began reading, I was intrigued by the idea but hesitant that the whole novel would consist of broad platitudes about romance based on a few keywords. Thankfully, I could tell within the first few pages that this was not the case. Levithan strikes a perfect balance between the universal and the personal, dispersing intimate details about the characters amidst situations that anyone who has ever been in love can relate to.
The novel has no chronological structure, following an alphabetical one instead, and thus the significant moments in the relationship are spread out side by side, the good next to the bad, a clear picture of the whole created by the combined fragments. It is difficult to go into the story itself because this is not a plot-based book, and providing any information about the characters or their trials would be to take away that moment of discovery in the book. In a way, the plot is irrelevant. There are only so many love stories in the world, and between poetry, novels, and the abundance of Kate Hudson romantic comedies, most have already been told. The Lover’s Dictionary is about romance, of course, but more than that it is about the power of words. How one word can have such specific memories tied to it as to give it an entirely new meaning. How a person’s words, what they choose to conceal and what they share, can make you fall in love with them more deeply than anything else. This novel appears to be so light, easy to absorb, like scrolling through your Twitter feed—and in a way, it is that simple a read. However, there is so much depth to the story that, despite its simplicity, I found myself savoring every passage.
When the narrator of the story states that writing about love can never be properly done and that words can never do the feeling justice, he files it under the adjective “ineffable”, and then continues on in his self-described pointless task. Yet regardless of whether or not The Lover’s Dictionary comprehensively defines romance once and for all, it remains a beautifully constructed effort in our collective attempt to understand that elusive emotion, as well as a wonderful example of the limitless possibilities that language provides.
Source: I borrowed this book from the local library.
Cover image via.