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The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
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really liked it
bookshelves: all-da-feeeeels, contemporary-romance, favourites, fucking-cheater, i-like-em-short, literary-gasm, literary-realism, ro-ro-romance, they-call-it-literary-fiction
Recommended for: everyone who has loved someone.

I nearly gave this 3.5 stars, but oh, the creativity! There's always extra points for creativity. Always.

Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough. [From ineffable, adj.]

If Forest Gump taught you that life is a box of chocolates, The Lover's Dictionary teaches you that love isn't. Using mere words, and in an extraordinarily creative diary-like format, Levithan shows everyone the different sides of love - the good, the bad, and the ugly; the ups and downs; the traditions and the quirks; the earth-shattering moments, and the heart shattering ones. The nameless narrator here, defines words as they did to him in his relationship, and in doing so he captures the essence of love and loss and longing in the smallest number of words possible. He does so alphabetically, because We do not divulge our histories chronologically. It’s not like we can sit each other down and say, “Tell me what happened,” and then rise from that conversation knowing everything. Most of the time, we don’t even realize that we’re dividing ourselves into clues. [From circuitous, adj.]

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 to love, 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 down to that root.
I want you to be the one who loves me.
I want to be the one who loves you.
[From lovers, n.]

Love is vast and undefined and has too many nuances to it. It means different things to different people, and even to two people in the same relationship, it could be defined by different things. Building on that, Levithan uses simple words, words that we use everyday, words that mean different things to us, to build a story. A story between two lovers, lovers that you find rooting for, and at the same time, you don't. The Lover's Dictionary reminds me of all the indie romance movies I've enjoyed - the ones with an average, albeit intellectual man and this firecracker of a manic pixie dreamgirl. I sometimes judge movies for having this theme, other times, I revel in how commonplace and natural some of these stories seem. Because in my experience, it is only these that show love as not always rainbows and unicorns, but as trying and testing, and worth it in the end.

love, n.
I’m not going to even try.

I have been in love exactly two times in my life. Both times, it ended badly. Both times, it was both our faults. It has taken me exactly 5 and 1.5 years respectively, to admit that last part to myself. The first time it ended, it was bad. It was passionate and tearful and bitter. On both sides. I though I would die. It took me a long time to get over it. The second time was ...quicker. Easier. Still heart-breaking, but I knew I'd survive. I didn't know if I had become more resilient or if it just gets easier with time. But it made me not so terrified of falling in love.

obstinate, adj.
Sometimes it becomes a contest: Which is more stubborn, the love or the two arguing people caught within it?

When things got nasty between my second ex-boyfriend and me, he said it was my personality. I said it was his substance abuse. Based on the number of break-ups we had before it ended for good, I would have liked to tell myself that it was love that won, but then I'd be lying to myself. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a toxic relationship; we were just two very different people looking for two very different things. And so along the way, love got lost.

I am completely unposed, completely genuine. In my mind’s eye, I picture myself like that, reacting to you. [From guise, n.] We put on disguises everyday, in front of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, even family. Until one day, in front of some people, we just don't, and to me, those are the people worth keeping in my life. And definitely the only people worth sharing my life with.

“Does everything have a name?”
The answer was no, only Ivan. Because when I bought it (the television) with Joanna, I promised her I would call it Ivan.
But I didn’t tell you that. Instead, I told you I’d named everything.
[From nomenclature, n.] One of my dearest friends in college had a habit of naming everything she owned. The air conditioner in her room, she named Dhanno. Dhanno was a little bitch if there ever was one, and simply refused to work until you softly stroked her while swearing your head off at her, preferably in Hindi. But Dhanno was part of our small family and I sometimes still miss her.

These words are now mine, but soon they’ll be ours. [From epilogue, n.] If I had a penny for every person who told me they'd include me in the dedication (or acknowledgement) for their book should they choose to write one, I'd give all the pennies away if it meant they would still dedicate it to me. I'm not trying to sound self-important here, but being a part of someone's words is as big a deal as being a part of someone's world, and I find it awfully touching.

Finally, I said, “It’s over.”
You started to cry, and I quickly said, “No — I mean this part is over. We have to get to the next part.”
[From persevere, v.] I've never realised if relationships, any relationships, not just the romantic ones, were contiguous , or if we could separate them into stages or parts. I mean, is it all one giant mess of joy and sorrow and good and bad, or can you separate the good parts from the bad? The bad memories are always interspersed with the good and vice versa. Maybe that's why we persevere.

gravity, n.
I imagine you saved my life. And then I wonder if I’m just imagining it.

The very first friend I ever made in college saved my life. I wasn't suicidal or anything, and it's not like I didn't think that I had a purpose either. But I was lost, and she sort of helped me centre myself. Maybe that's why, six years later, she's still the first person I turn to.

In the end, we both want the right thing to happen, the right person to win, the right idea to prevail. We have no faith that it will, but still we want it. Neither of us has given up on anything. [From jaded, adj.] "Jaded" literally means exhausted. And in today's context, I can think of no better definition for the word than this. Everyday, we wake up, hoping things will get better, but they don't, and here we are, exhausted that they don't. Day after day. Jaded.

You were already seeing the rooms as ours, and that was enough for me.
Well, that and a dishwasher.
[From broker, n. and v.] I start my Master's program in 20 days. In a new city, new country, new everything. Of course, I also had to lease a new house, and in a way, my broker got me three great friends. Because when she sent the our of us that same email with that same house, we all saw those rooms as ours, and thus, friendships were born. Although, we did get broker too. A lot broker.

misgivings, n.
Last night, I got up the courage to ask you if you regretted us.
“There are things I miss,” you said. “But if I didn’t have you, I’d miss more.”

My ex (the second one, the more "real" one) and I remain friends, and one day, he asked me if I regretted our time together. It's a loaded question if there ever is one, and I surprised even myself by answering that I didn't. I didn't regret our time together. There were some incidents that I wish we could've handled differently. Some mistakes I wish we hadn't made. But I cherish "our time together" as a whole. And I think it made me a better person.

I want to take back at least half the “I love you”s, because it feels safer that way. [From recant, v.]
quintessence, n.
It’s the way you say thank you like you’re genuinely thankful. I have never met anyone else who does that on a regular basis.

I truly believe that we take the words "sorry", "thank you", and "I love you", amongst others, for granted. We either say it too many times, or not enough times at all. And many times, we say it because we have to. We don't remember what these words mean anymore, or what they mean when we say it.

If you and I really, truly wanted to change the world, we’d invent more words that started with x. [From x, n.] My best friend from school and I invented a word. It was a nonsense word, and that was its essence. We could use it in any context, and its meaning could be derived from the context itself. Although it was years after we became best friends, inventing this word became a defining moment in our friendship. Each time we fought, we had a peace offering. And during the trying times, maybe this invented word saved us.

masochist, n.
If there wasn’t a word for it, would we realize our masochism as much?

I have a shelf here, on Goodreads called "because I'm a masochist", and it refers to every bad book decision I make on purpose. I have never been a fan of using the word masochism in love. I mean, I am not disregarding the sexual fetish, nor the actual act, just the use of the word. Somehow makes the act seem...obligatory.

yearning, n. and adj.
At the core of this desire is the belief that everything can be perfect.

I've never liked the idea of perfection. It's too complicated and boring. It's all the imperfections that make life worth it, and really, if everything were perfect, we'd all be out of jobs.

Even if neither of us got what we wanted, we found freedom in the third choices. [From deadlock, n.] My friends and I used to watch a movie almost every night during our last few weeks of college. There were so many movies we wanted to see together, so many choices, that some days, we used to ask random people to pick movies for us, and then watch them. We found solace in third choices.

Does every “I love you” deserve an “I love you too”? Does every kiss deserve a kiss back? Does every night deserve to be spent on a lover?
If the answer to any of these is “No,” what do we do?
[From fraught, adj.]
The first time my (second) ex told me he loved me, I said "okay". Not even thank you, okay. It wasn't that I didn't love him. I did, I just didn't know that that was the right time to say it. And I didn't want it to sound like an obligation because it wasn't. My ideal response in many of these situations is "okay", not because I want to be rude, but because I think I responding in any other manner would be either difficult or complicated, or sometimes, untruthful. Okay. And this is my contribution to the lover's dictionary.

okay, n.
Sometimes, it's okay to say okay. It's not a big deal at all, because sometimes, it is the perfect answer.

You grabbed my hand and twirled me around, two sidewalk sweethearts. Then, very earnestly, you stopped, leaned over, and whispered, “You know, I’d get a tattoo with your name on it. Only, I want you to have the freedom to change your name if you want to.” [From unabashedly, adv.]
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Quotes Anuradha Liked

David Levithan
“Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.”
David Levithan, The Lover's Dictionary

David Levithan
“It scares me how hard it is to remember life before you. I can't even make the comparisons anymore, because my memories of that time have all the depth of a photograph. It seems foolish to play games of better and worse. It's simply a matter of is and is no longer.”
David Levithan, The Lover's Dictionary

David Levithan
misgivings, n.

Last night, I got up the courage to ask you if you regretted us.
"There are things I miss," you said. "But if I didn't have you, I'd miss more.”
David Levithan, The Lover's Dictionary

David Levithan
recant, v.

I want to take back at least half of the “I love you”s, because I didn’t mean them as much as the other ones. I want to take back the book of artsy photos I gave you, because you didn’t get it and said it was hipster trash. I want to take back what I said about you being an emotional zombie. I want to take back the time I called you “honey” in front of your sister and you looked like I had just shown her pictures of us having sex. I want to take back the wineglass I broke when I was mad, because it was a nice wineglass and the argument would have ended anyway. I want to take back the time we had sex in a rent-a-car, not because I feel bad about the people who got in the car after us, but because it was massively uncomfortable. I want to take back the trust I had while you were away in Austin. I want to take back the time I said you were a genius, because I was being sarcastic and I should have just said you’d hurt my feelings. I want to take back the secrets I told you so I can decide now whether to tell them to you again. I want to take back the piece of me that lies in you, to see if I truly miss it. I want to take back at least half the “I love you”s, because it feels safer that way.”
David Levithan, The Lover's Dictionary

David Levithan
“The key to a successful relationship isn’t just in the words, it’s in the choice of punctuation. When you’re in love with someone, a well-placed question mark can be the difference between bliss and disaster, and a deeply respected period or a cleverly inserted ellipsis can prevent all kinds of exclamations.”
David Levithan, The Lover's Dictionary
tags: love

David Levithan
“There has to be a moment at the beginning where you wonder whether you’re in love with the person or in love with the feeling of love itself.
If the moment doesn’t pass, that’s it—you’re done.
And if the moment does pass, it never goes that far. It stands in the distance, ready for whenever you want it back. Sometimes it’s even there when you thought you were searching for something else, like an escape route, or your lovers’ face.”
David Levithan, The Lover's Dictionary
tags: love

Reading Progress

February 6, 2016 – Shelved
February 6, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
August 1, 2018 – Started Reading
August 1, 2018 – Shelved as: all-da-feeeeels
August 1, 2018 – Shelved as: contemporary-romance
August 1, 2018 – Shelved as: favourites
August 1, 2018 – Shelved as: fucking-cheater
August 1, 2018 – Shelved as: i-like-em-short
August 1, 2018 – Shelved as: literary-gasm
August 1, 2018 – Shelved as: literary-realism
August 1, 2018 – Shelved as: ro-ro-romance
August 1, 2018 – Shelved as: they-call-it-literary-fiction
August 1, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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Jen/The Tolkien Gal/ジェニファー Absolutely gorgeous review! It took by breath away.

message 2: by Monisha (new) - added it

Monisha What a beautiful review. Wow. Just wow.

message 3: by Anuradha (last edited Sep 22, 2018 12:21PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anuradha Jennifer (Jen/The Tolkien Gal/ジェニファー) wrote: "Absolutely gorgeous review! It took by breath away."

Yay! Thanks so much, Jen! <3

Anuradha Monisha wrote: "What a beautiful review. Wow. Just wow."

Thank you! :D

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