OVERRIDE

The Lover's Dictionary

A Novel

David Levithan

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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.


BOOK EXCERPTS

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I

I, n.

Me without anyone else.

 

idea, n.

“I’m quitting,” you say. “I can’t believe how wasted I was.

This time, I’m really going to do it.”

And I tell you I’ll help. It’s almost a script at this point.

 

imperceptible, adj.

We stopped counting our relationship in dates (first date, second date, fifth date, seventh) and started counting it in months. That might have been the first true commitment, this shift in terminology. We never talked about it, but we were at a party

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  • The Lover's Dictionary: A Love Story Told Alphabetically

    Among the novel's pleasures are micro-stories that speak volumes, reminiscent of Lydia Davis — Heller McAlpin, NPR.org

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REVIEWS

Praise for The Lover's Dictionary

“Levithan brings ingenuity and a wry edge to his first adult novel. . . Among the novel’s pleasures are micro-stories that speak volumes, reminiscent of Lydia Davis’ work. . . There’s plenty of reflection, not just on the relationship but on the attempt to distill and describe such complex feeling, including this: ‘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.’ That, by the way, is Levithan’s definition of ineffable.” —Heller McAlpin, NPR.org
 
“‘The Lover’s Dictionary’ is clever and poetic and, sigh, sad. . . The brief entries are like poetry; poetry with a gravitational pull back to the central narrative, which is two people falling in love. The fact that the pieces hold together so well is testament, not only to Levithan’s light hand and gracious writing but also to the power of this universal story.” —Susan Salter Reynolds, Newsday
 
“Young-adult novelist David Levithan doesn’t list this entry under the V in the alphabetically headed (and arranged) chapters of ‘The Lover's Dictionary,’ his charming short novel about a love affair and its bittersweet evolution from first flirt to shaky domesticity, for lovers of all gender persuasions . . . Surrounded by large amounts of white space—which may be useful for readers as we walk through these dictionary-like entries for musing on our own loves and losses—the spare number of words in Levithan’s novel may be just enough . . . But allow me to exclaim. Without ellipsis.  (and some white space) Here is a lovely Valentine’s Day gift for lovers!” —Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Levithan crafts a love affair as sharp, funny, and sad as any you’d find in an epic novel. . . The Lover’s Dictionary isn’t about how lessons were learned, and in what order—it’s a documentation of facts, memories, war wounds. And anyone who has been in a romantic relationship will recognize themselves in Levithan’s lovers, from the tiniest details of merging bookshelves and quiet afternoons to the largest anxieties of sexual inadequacy and romantic reciprocity. Levithan’s rhapsody is just that: an ode to desire written as an account of the traces such desire leaves behind.” —Jessica Freeman-Slade, TheRumpus.net
 
“David Levithan makes every word count . . . Levithan gives readers the kind of love story that Billy Pilgrim in ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ would have appreciated: unstuck in time, reliving moments in unpredictable order and in varying emotional colors. . . an equal opportunity romance with wit and rue, kisses and tears, that anyone can enjoy.” —Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
 
“From ‘aberrant’ to ‘zenith,’ David Levithan’s latest creates a relationship in short scenes, packed with lyrical language. Entries slip back and forth in time as they unfold through an alphabet of romance, anger, forgiveness and tenderness to make up one particular relationship . . . The entries manage to be both intently focused and hinting at the larger picture. They read more like a well-crafted series of poems than a linear story line. Each word is defined and captured in a moment of the relationship. Levithan moves from romance to heartbreak to flirtation to devotion, in alphabetical order.” —Elizabeth Willse, Star-Ledger
 
“Interestingly, each definition is told from the point of view and in the first-person voice of only one of the partners. The other partner’s voice remains silent throughout except as quoted by the narrator. Nevertheless, both come wonderfully alive, emerging as complex, multidimensional human beings, happy and unhappy, ebullient and angry, sweet and sour, and so—delightfully—forth. Happily, the order of the alphabet does not dictate the order of the story, which moves backward and forward in time. Thus, the dramatic necessity of conflict arises from one partner’s infidelity, the impact of which is then explored at various points in the history of the partnership. Nothing is cut-and-dried, however, for as Levithan demonstrates, intimacy is sometimes enigmatic and, as he notes under ineffable, “No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.” So you must clearly pick and choose which to use, an act that Levithan has accomplished artfully and satisfyingly.” —Booklist (starred review)
 
“Levithan attains some heartbreaking moments as well as pitches of hilarity with his concise, polished writing. Inherent in such an endeavor is an adorableness thankfully grounded by Levithan’s wit.” —Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • David Levithan

  • David Levithan is the author of many acclaimed young-adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn), which was adapted into a popular movie. He is also an editorial director at Scholastic.
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The Lover's Dictionary

A Novel

David Levithan

ALA Alex Awards Winner (Adult for Young Adults), YALSA Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong L
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