Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with David Levithan
Q: What inspired you to write The Lover’s Dictionary?
Levithan: Every year for the past 23 years, I’ve written a story for my friends for Valentine’s Day. It started when I was a junior in high school and remarkably bored in my physics class--I decided to go through the physics book and find all the romantic references I could (opposites attracting, magnetism, etc), and turn it into a love story. My friends liked it, and the next year, they demanded a new story for Valentine’s Day. A tradition (or, at least, a deadline) was born.
Two years ago, I hit February 1st and I hadn’t started writing my Valentine’s Day story. I had a few ideas, but none were kicking in. I sat down at my desk to thing something up, and right by an elbow was a book I’d recently recovered from my parents’ basement--a book of “words you need to know” that I’d been given as a gift (probably for my high school graduation). I thought it might be interesting to take random words from that book, in alphabetical order, and tell the story of a relationship through those words, in dictionary form. I didn’t plan any of it out--I let the words tell the story. And two weeks later, I had the story version of The Lover’s Dictionary.
Q: How (if at all) was the experience of writing what is classified as an adult novel different from writing a young adult novel? Did you approach the emotion of love differently?
Levithan: I didn’t approach this book any differently from my other books. Because, really, the emotions don’t change. Perspective changes (a little, sometimes not even a little), but the emotions are still there. Yes, the twenty-something characters in The Lover’s Dictionary are facing some issues most teens don’t face--moving in together, paying rent. But most of what they’re feeling is merely a continuation of the emotions that come to the fore when you’re a teenager--wanting to belong, wanting to understand yourself, wanting to understand the person you love, wanting to know what love is. I’d love to say that when we become adults we stop being insecure, that we have answers, that we know the right words for the right moments. But that’s simply not true.
Q: Were there any words/definitions that didn’t make it in to the final book?
Levithan: Not that many. I just went back to the first draft and found one:
haggle, v. There was no way I was letting the Atlanta Braves lamp to our apartment, and you said, fine, then my lunchbox collection could go back to my parents’ basement, where it belonged.
I’m not even sure why it didn’t make the cut. Maybe there were already too many entries about decorating the apartment.
Q: The Lover’s Dictionary isn’t a linear story and is organized alphabetically, much like a traditional reference dictionary. How (if at all) did you change your writing process knowing that it would unfold this way?
Levithan: I loved writing in a nonlinear way. Because it feels to me like a more accurate way of how we recount relationships. They never come back to us as a narrative, told beginning-middle-end. Whether it’s over or ongoing, we remember it in flashes. Different moments from the past hit us at different moments in the present. So when the narrator sits down to recount the relationship to the lover, it makes sense to me that the relationship would appear to him in this way, with the words as the catalyst for the memories, and the memories adding up to the truth.
Q: Why did you decide to write the novel in first person, directed at a second person?
Levithan: The act of writing the book (for the narrator) is as much a part of the story as the story itself. I don’t want to explain the book too much, so I can leave it at that. And I wanted it to play like a love song you hear on the radio--the most effective love songs are somehow both specific and universal. You feel you are hearing someone else’s story, but at the same time you relate to it so much that their story doesn’t preclude your story. I wanted The Lover’s Dictionary to be like that.
Q: Describe how you feel about writing in three words.
Levithan: Wonderment. Curiosity. Random.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
While a really short book, I found this book to be very unique and enjoyable.
I just recently fell in love with David Levithan's writing, this one was the third book I read from him and it just made me sigh and swoon the whole way through.
The style works perfectly to tell a very personal and real love story in a refreshing way.
Reads like a cross between a screen play, a book of poetry and a novel. Executed in such a creative and unique way. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Maria Sparling
I can read this over and over again. It is beautiful and poetic. I borrowed it from a friend and now I lend it out to all of my friends too!Published 10 days ago by Sara M. Peterson
Read this if you want to be entertained but not sucked in. Read this if you want an unexpected laughing fit. Read this if you love love but have mis-givings or questions. Read morePublished 19 days ago by Kiegin Evertz
Quick and easy read. Catchy lines. I recommend it if you're looking for a fast, good read.Published 1 month ago by Nina G.
I read this little book within a few hours. I don't think anyone who has loved (and lost at love) could not find a passage to relate to here.Published 2 months ago by L. Donadio
The Lover's Dictionary by David Leviathan is a collection of short dictionary entries that tells a story about love using words from A-Z. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Ugonna Ume
Sheer genius the way David Levithan was able to tell a complete story through simple dictionary entries that read more as little vignettes. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Sean Pilgrim