Books: The Lover’s Dictionary

The nameless narrator of David Levithan’s novel The Lover’s Dictionary narrates his relationship in the form of dictionary definitions of words, from aberrant to zenith. Some definitions are a page long, others just a sentence. Which makes it sound gimmicky and cute and Twitterific, but this book is anything but. It’s moving, hilarious, heartbreaking and smart. It’s also something of a guessing game, because the definitions leap back and forth across the span of the relationship. This book is a poignant reminder that words can say everything and nothing — and the same goes for the spaces and the pauses between them. Levithan’s is a spare tale and yet it feels universal, especially because the narrator addresses his partner as a nameless, gender-less “you.” But enough with all this wordiness, let’s just show you what we mean with a few of our favorite entries:

arduous, adj.

Sometimes during sex, I wish there was a button on the small of your back that I could press and cause you to be done with it already.

arrears, n.

My faithfulness was as unthinking as your lapse. Of all the things I thought could go wrong, I never thought it would be that.

“It was a mistake,” you said. But the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting you.

basis, n.

There has to be a moment at the beginning when 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 lover’s face.

catharsis, n.

I took it out on the wall.


exacerbate, v.

I believe your exact words were: “You’re getting too emotional.”

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