Pages: 224 Copyright: 2011
Surprise, surprise, I’m talking about David Levithan again! Confound the man, he just can’t seem to stop being worth talking about.
The Lover’s Dictionary is literally written in dictionary format, moving through the alphabet with each letter standing for a word, followed by an entry based on that word that adds, not necessarily chronologically, to the story the unnamed first-person narrator is telling about the ups and downs of their relationship with a significant other, addressed as “you”. The entries vary in length and tone, some funny, others emotional, melancholy, or sweet. It’s not entirely clear for most of the book what their relationship status is at the time of the writing.
I have this theory about poetry— that bad poetry happens when people try to elaborate and adorn their thoughts and emotions by Writing Poetically, the way they think poetry is “supposed” to sound, and good poetry happens when people do the opposite, letting go of the parameters of prose and logical language to just put out their pure, raw thoughts and emotions, the way things actually feel and make sense to them, which isn’t always communicated in scientifically logical images and phrasings.
I complained in my review of The Realm of Possibility— or at least, I would have if I had been more articulate at the time. I really need to toughen up— that the verse format seemed forced and, confusingly, less poetic than his prose, which has always had its own natural music to it. It’s in The Lover’s Dictionary that, in my opinion, David has found his true poet’s voice, using his naturally elegant style and stripping away the prose structure to really let it shine. The Lover’s Dictionary felt so natural and universal. It was touching and grand, but not in the way of things that are trying to be touching and grand (which is one of my pet peeves); in the way of something that is so quietly and unassumingly true and honest that its beauty can’t help but shine through.
The Lover’s Dictionary is a short book. It’s a simple story, lacking certain specificities in order to fit its mission of depicting love in all its shades and in a way that resonates with everyone, although the characters and their romance are not blank slates by any means. It never technically even specifies the gender of either character. But it’s a book that will always stick with you, in its subtle way; and if you’re anything like me, you won’t regret giving it your time.
I kind of want to go re-read it now. And yet my TBR list is a mile long. Hm.