Review: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

February 27, 2013

If you thought what I thought when I saw the title of this book, let me make it clear that it's not what you think. You can read ahead. It's safe :).

Title: The Lover's Dictionary
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Publication Date: February 2, 3012 (first published January 4th 2011) 
Genre: Romance, Relationships, Reference ;)
Rating: 4/ 5 stars
Amazon | Goodreads
How does one talk about love? Is it even possible to describe something at once utterly mundane and wholly transcendent, that has the power to consume our lives completely, while making us feel part of something infinitely larger than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this age-old problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary constructs the story of a relationship as a dictionary. Through these sharp entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of coupledom, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.
I love books that are different, out-of-the-box. Like verse novels, or Thirteen Reasons Why (my review!), or this one here - The Lover's Dictionary. I mean, who would think to write a story in the form of a dictionary?

I was reading some of the reviews of this book, and one of the reviewers said this: Read this book only when you are in love or you are in love with love. It's probably true. Well, at least it is for me (the latter one, before you ask ;)). But I was wondering, aren't we all? Either one or the other? Even a bit?

The book has a nerer-been-seenread-before concept, and it actually works. You have to admit, authors who take on unique concepts like this don't really know what the reception is going to be like. And a DICTIONARY. I'll probably keep repeating this (that's its a dictionary), because seriously, its a hard task to take up. What to write for what word? What words to pick in the first place from the actual dictionary? Write it with continuity or titbits? So many questions, but Levithan actually pulls it off.

Interestingly, to that last question, the author chose the latter option. Titbits. Not only titbits, but he chose anonymity too. There's not a single name anywhere. It's just 'I' and 'You'. I started reading the book assuming the narrator was a guy, then I thought maybe I shouldn't, because who know? it could be a woman. I kept wondering and looking for clues, right up till 'beguile, v.' where I found out that he is after all a he.

The titbits part is interesting. It goes back and forth, a bit here, a bit there, and it's left up to you to fit in the pieces and get the whole picture. Some people might find that annoying, but I kind of likes that. It kept my mind active.

It's a pretty short book, you can probably finish it in a day, even if you're a slow reader. I won't say much for the storyline, but the concept and writing makes up for it, so it's okay.

Now, a few of my favourite definitions...

awhile, adv.
I love the vagueness of words that involve time.
It took him awhile to come back - it could be a matter of minutes or hours, days or years.

ineffable, adj.
These words will ultimately end up being the barest of reflections, devoid of the sensations words cannot convey. Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there, there will never be enough.

love, n.
I'm not even going to try.

lover, n.
Oh, how I hated this word. So pretentious, like it was always being translated from the French. The tint and taint of illicit, illegitimate affections. Dictionary meaning: a person having a love affair. Impermanent. Unfamilial. Inextricably linked to sex.
I have never wanted a lover. In order to have a lover, I must go back to the root of the word. For I have never wanted a lover, but I have always wanted lover, and to be loved.
There is no word for the recipient of the love. There is only a word for the giver. There is the assumption that lovers come in pairs.
When I say, Be my lover, I don't mean, Let's have an affair. I don't mean Sleep with me. I don't mean, Be my secret.
I want us to go back to that root.
I want you to be the one who loves me.
I want to be the one who loves you.”
*I was a bit hesitant to read the book because of the name, but when I read this definition, I got it. I loved it. And I love that he thinks like that.*

stymie, v.
That ten-letter word for moderate in eating and drinking - first letter a, fourth letter t? I knew it all along, but was so entertained by your frustration that I kept it to myself.
*I just couldn't resist passing this one along. If you're like me, you're probably hunting for a dictionary or breaking your head if there's lack of one (like there was for me).*

The Lover's Dictionary is funny, deep, and it makes you think. It gave me whole new insights into words; a whole new meaning for it that I'd never thought of. And it was fun reading the little incidents and seeing how they fit the word.

The Lover's Dictionary is a quick read, perfect for travel or if you're bored to death and want some action for your mind.

P.S.: I ADORE the cover. Right now, I've got an obsession with all things red, so this is right up my lane. And I sorta matched the blurb box to the cover :D

P.P.S: A big shout out to Pooja S. of Of Books! for lending this book to me. Seriously Pooja, I love you for giving me such awesome books throughout this year, and I'm gonna miss that (and you ;)).

1 comment :

  1. ZOMG. Just saw this. Beautiful review. TOTALLY summed up how I felt about the book :D and thanks for the shout-out i'llmissyoutooo!

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