By Kaitlin Lyle
By the end of our lifetime, each of us will have accumulated a series of love stories, with trials and tribulations alike. How we tell those stories depends on the kind of experience that love gave us.
To author David Levithan, love is not just one long story to be dissected, but a collection of memories taken from the love itself. From its most enlightening moments to the smaller quips that happen behind closed doors, Levithan jots down a few abstract recollections within the text of his novel to give his reader clarity towards love among various definitions.
In its underrated glory, “The Lover’s Dictionary” reads as a fantastic reverie to English majors. It’s a matter-of-fact narrative filled to the brim with enough vocabulary to satisfy logophiles alike, all while keeping a frame for modern-day love.
In terms of telling his side of the love story, the author has strayed far from the traditional path of story-telling with every detail in chronological order and has instead constructed an intimate dictionary of his experience with love.
For each letter of the alphabet, Levithan has chosen a series of unique words beginning with that letter along with an entry that relays his understandings of love to the selected word’s definition. From words that we find in our daily vocabulary (such as “I”, “only”, and “breathing”) to extravagant phrases that occur less often (“taciturn”, “ineffable”, and “alfresco”), the author is quick to provide an observation that fits each word like a glove.
The entries range from a single sentence to a couple of pages, and a swift change in mood is detected as the entries range from detailed thoughtfulness to quiet detachment. While some of the stories are humorous in their one-liners (For “antsy”, Levithan writes, “I swore I would never take you to the opera again,”), there is a subtle bitterness towards the few stories that do not end happily: for the noun “breach”, the author states, “I didn’t want to know who he was, or what you did, or that it didn’t mean anything,”
Throughout every reminiscence that Levithan has recorded for his reader, he provides an intricate outline of an original love story, yielding some personal details to us while keeping the whole of his story to himself.
One of the more peculiar talents that was noticed in this abstract piece hints at the idea that while Levithan has placed a few of his cards on the table, there still lies a fragment of ambiguity to what he is willing to share. The lack of specific details (such as names or time) within each story, while intangible at times, makes an interesting flourish worth writing about.
Instead of having his own name or his lover’s written into the stories, he uses personal pronouns “I” and “you” in his narrations that mesmerize his reader into believing that we are the ones he is referring to and that it is us who are enduring the memories alongside him.
Though beguiling at times in an attempt to place together the pieces of a complex puzzle, author Levithan’s novel is particularly impressive with its unique ability to fasten love stories onto an expansive variety of terms. To English majors and lovelorn readers alike, “The Lover’s Dictionary” is recommended as a carrier of both moving love anecdotes and a remarkable word bank to boot.