Thursday, May 12, 2011

My Take On: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

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.
How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.
To be quite blunt, this was an utterly original book about the stinginess of modern love. Yet The Lover's Dictionary was nevertheless an addictive read with style, wit, and, if not moral integrity and sincerity, at least honesty.
It was not, however, YA. This book is about two adults, in a very adult relationship, dealing with the very adult consequences of their not so very adult decisions. Also, there is a good deal of swearing, including several F's, a couple GD's and one use of a worse word. Yeah, apparently there is one.
So, while I would not recommend this to teens--because it really isn't written for teens, no matter what Levithan's past publications or its being shelved in my libraries YA section may lead one to believe--and while I do not agree with the relationship it flaunts as being the modern norm, it was, nonetheless, a good read. It read something like an Anne Hathaway movie, actually. At least, that's what I was thinking of while I was reading it. Just not the fluffy princess kind. More the hook-up kind that I only ever see the previews of and then snub as being too smutty for my taste. But, thankfully, there wasn't anything strictly explicit in this book, though I did skip a few definitions. But I digress.
As for the stinginess I mentioned above: if this book truly is a portrait of modern love, then we are a very poor generation of lovers. The image it painted was one of love being a mere feeling, something that is fleeting and that can be gone in an instant like sunshine behind a cloud, and while that description may be true of such things as trust or amusement, it is not an accurate depiction of love.
Love is one person willing the good of another. It's a decision to do right by them and to take care of them and never willingly hurt them. Love is a choice that must be made several times a day: I will forgive/apologize because I love you; I will be chaste because I love you; I will commit to this relationship 100% by marrying you because I love you; I will make this work because I choose to love you. It was this self sacrifice, which is the true nature of love itself, that the relationship in the Dictionary was missing. Like a cake with no leaven or a smile that never reaches the eyes, without self-sacrifice, there was just something essential missing. This was the type of relationship in which no one is fully commited and everyone is on tenterhooks about it falling apart suddenly like a paper balloon in the rain. And while I appreciate that this cavalier mindset is some peoples' reality, I don't appreciate this view of love being perpetuated as the new norm.
The truth is, there is no new norm of love. Love is and always will be what God made it to be, and anything less is exactly that: less.
I give The Lover's Dictionary...
...three zombies.
It was a stylishly written, interesting look at the flippant outlook people have come to possess of love, as well as a thought provoking look at selfishness in the place of selflessness and how that can altar a relationship from being something beautiful and wholesome to something that causes nearly constant grief and anxiety punctuated by rays of pleasure or affection.

i am
zombie girrrl
& love's got
a lot to do
with everything


Orchid said...

I ahven't read The Lover's Dictionary (and probably never will), but I loved you review of it. ^_^

OneCraftyFox said...

Awesome and sincere review. Zombie girrl, you rock!!

Cafe Fashionista said...

I am absolutely DYING to read this after reading this review. It sounds incredible! :)

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