Friday, May 13, 2016

[from my book journal] The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

I just finished reading The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan last night. In fact, I stayed up way past my bedtime and didn’t wake up in time for my 7am class. Anyway, it’s a great book! Honestly, I just bought it for the gorgeous typography on the cover, and at first I was like, di yan sulit. P400 and it’s just that thin and he doesn’t even fill every page. But then, as I started reading, I realized how sulit it was. I remember my CW 10 prof telling us that poetry is an economy of words, and now I get it. It doesn’t matter that the book doesn’t have enough words; it has all the important words and it is more beautiful for all the superfluous words that were weeded out. In fact, since it’s a dictionary, the economy of words was really important.
Another thing I loved about it is well, that it’s a dictionary. I’ve always loved words and definitions. In elementary school, when I qualified for spelling bees, I’d try to review by skimming the Merriam-Webster Garfield dictionary. I’d always end up reading the comics instead, but I think along the way I also formed an appreciation for how carefully the definitions are crafted. How they have to be so exact, as simple and yet as complete as possible. In high school, I felt the same way about math. How you had to define a concept in just a sentence and yet cover all its rules and exceptions. How postulates and theorems were used to prove bigger concepts, and how even the most basic of operations, such as addition, had their own definition. In college, I always spend too much time learning the definition of each variable, each concept. And in this book, the author didn’t pin down what each word stood for in the English language, he pinned down what each word meant to him. Isn’t that lovely? (I kind of have a vague dream of doing the same thing with all the words I’ve loved, but I don’t think my life is interesting enough for that. Also, it’d be a really derivative work. Boo.)
Another great thing about it is that it’s vague. Details are deliberately withheld, I think, to keep the book as universal as possible. Sure, some things are really specific, but they’re the details that could belong to anybody. I didn’t even remember to wonder about what his love looked like, I was too wrapped up in the book. And yet I feel like I skimmed it too quickly, like I should go over it again and highlight my favorite passages and rewrite words in my own handwriting so they can feel mine. It was a great book, easily one of my top 10. 

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Maira Gall