Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review: The Lover's Dictionary by David Leviathan

The Lover's Dictionary is a wonderful book that tells an ordinary love story in a unique way. The unnamed narrator has organized his tale in a series of dictionary entries, giving uncommon definitions for words through storytelling. It is a novel comprised of flash fiction, set up alphabetically as a dictionary. That sounds confusing, but to a logophile like myself, it's love.

I found this book via twitter, when the webpage suggested I follow @loversdiction. On this page I found a series of very short entries similar to the ones in the book, and I was hooked immediately. One of the newest entries at that point was "appendix, n.: In the body, it’s in the middle; in the story, it’s at the end. I say, let’s live now, and let the charts come after." and after I retweeted it, I knew immediately I had to have this book. It mixed together a love for words, an unconventional and unique form, a love story, and David Leviathan--a combination I knew immediately I would love. I admit that I bought it on impulse, which is the downside of being able to use Amazon at any time of night (1 am, I think), but I'm glad I did.

In this multi-formed novel of flash fiction, we hear a love story not in the way it would unfold—that is to say, chronologically—but in the way it is remembered: pieces at a time, overlapping and conjoining until the story itself takes form. Each word and moment unravels a little more of the story, each story reveals a little more of the people, each person adds a little more to the relationship. In this rare form, we get an idea about the relationship as a whole, not just the beginning, middle, and end. The story is real, ordinary and familiar, and that's why we love it. The characters are even more-so, realistic right down to their taste in music or way of thinking. I felt absolutely that the unnamed girlfriend in this tale was someone I knew, as well as the narrator. Often times I felt I was the narrator, despite the second-person point of view. The book is structured in that the reader should feel like the girlfriend, or perhaps a friend secretly reading these notes written to her (for they are letters, in addition to dictionary entries), but I connected with the boyfriend so much that at times I felt like I was him, which is incredible and not altogether common in anything aside from great Literature.

Overall, I think this is a great book that any lover and any lover of words will enjoy. Additionally, as it is comprised of flash fiction, it's a quick read. At the end, you'll be left wondering exactly what happened, but I think it's possible to draw conclusions, though opinions may vary on what those conclusions are and mean. Whatever you decide happens, I'm convinced that by the end of the last page--at the Zenith of the book--you'll be wishing there were more to read.

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