Sunday, July 24, 2011
The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
I think the strong point of this book is the honesty of the story and the clever way that the author used the format to enhance that story. Because the dictionary entries are in alphabetical order rather than being arranged chronologically, the story is disjointed and non-linear. This means that the reader discovers the story bit by bit, piecing together a relationship from glimpses of moments and feelings relayed out of order or context. I feel like this gives the story a sense of suspense and forward motion. Some entries will pick up where earlier entries left off, filling in gaps and changing the story from one page to the next. The way he would repeat and elaborate on conversations that he had mentioned earlier was very effective in both keeping the book moving forward and in creating a sense of unity throughout and otherwise fragmented book. I also think the fragmentation comes across as a very honest way to portray memory. When looking back over the course of a relationship, I don't usually see things in perfect chronological order. My memories are a kaleidoscope of the best and worst times, of turning points and everyday moments that come together into some kind of coherent whole. I think the format of the book is a good way of showing that remembering process.
The Lover's Dictionary book was a very short read. I read it in the course of a few hours on a lazy summer afternoon. Despite what I said in my previous paragraph, it isn't a particularly heavy book. Instead, I like to think of it as a great summer read. Because of all the short entries, it's great for reading on a day when you may have only a few minutes here and there. The writing style, while both pleasing and intelligent, is also very readable. If books were films, this book would be a mini-series. It's broken up into convenient episodes and it isn't too difficult to understand. That said, this book isn't fluffy or silly. It is probably one of the most intelligent and realistic "easy summer reads" I've recommended. Levithan has somehow managed to make a quality work that still qualifies as easy and enjoyable. If you are having the kind of lazy summer I've been having, but you still want a book that isn't going to insult you, I would definitely recommend The Lover's Dictionary.
A short but intelligent read that, while it won't change your life, is definitely worth your time.