Review: The Lover’s Dictionary
The Lover’s Dictionary is David Levithan’s foray into adult fiction, though this book reads more like a collection of prose poetry than a typical novel. Each page includes a word and its “definition,” altogether chronicling the bits and pieces that make up a relationship. Definitions vary from lengthy anecdotes to short declarations, but each and every one is like a clue to understanding the story of two people brought together through an Internet dating site, and occasionally kept apart by alcoholism and cheating.
One of the many things I appreciated about this book was its lack of gender specificity; though the MC is said to be male, it is never known whether his partner is male or female, and it doesn’t matter. This is a love story, complete with all of its ups and downs, and it’s clear that the story is applicable regardless of gender pronouns or sexuality.
Given the amount of negative space on each page, it looks like this might be a quick read. However, this is a book to be savored. I read it slowly, pausing to think, and flipping backward to reread entries and laugh and sigh at each one, pleased by the evenness of both. Levithan balances this book perfectly, knowing when to pull back from the bleaker or more abstract entries to the lighter and more concrete. He manages in so few words to tap into the universal. Though his language is sparing, it is exquisite.
I think most readers are familiar with that feeling when reading something where the author has perfectly captured their thoughts. You say to yourself, “Yes! That’s exactly it!” even if you could never quite put it into words before. The Lover’s Dictionary will make you say, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” with every page. I don’t own enough post-it notes to flag every quotable quote in this book. Every line feels just right. David Levithan is somebody who treats words with respect, using them to their full potential; my own writing feels crude in comparison, and I feel bad for whatever book follows up this one.
This book, like all of Levithan’s books, was beyond beautiful. I kept thinking that I would love to live in Levithan’s head for a while, but I worry that it is already crowded. There can’t be much room with all that brilliance crammed in there. Still, if I am to be asphyxiated, I guess suffocation by David Levithan’s thoughts wouldn’t be the worst way to go, right?
I am seriously in love with The Lover’s Dictionary. Part of me wants to keep reading it until all the words are etched in my brain, but I know that piles and piles of other books await. If this book is waiting somewhere in your own piles, I hope you’ll pull it out and enjoy it as much as I did!