This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Lover's Dictionary: Defining The Nature Of Love

A dejected Charlie Brown famously said, "Nothing spoils the taste of peanut butter like unrequited love."

Years later, Woody Allen would believe "Sex alleviates tension. Love causes it." Lady Gaga would be addictively caught in a bad romance. And Lily Tomlin would plead with the world at large: "if love is the answer, could you please rephrase the question?"

Do I believe in love? It's like asking I ♥ Huckabees. How am I not myself? Am I myself? Do I believe in love? Or is it a concoction like the word normal-- a theory to make us feel inferior and unsure of ourselves? It's intangible, unproven but proven, fleeting yet everlasting. Love.

It's like God and the Devil and heaven and hell all wrapped into one. It makes us float and giggle and believe in the very best of everything there is to believe in. It's magnetic and unpredictable. It makes us believe in magic, fairytales and happily ever afters. It tempts us and taunts us. Sometimes, it makes us do things, reckless things, we wouldn't normally do. It makes us stay in relationships much too long. It makes us postpone decisions, settle for what's right, what's wrong, what's stable. What's love?

It's hard to capture and hard to hold. It chases happiness and hides from sadness, but sometimes sadness finds it. And like bloodhounds, loneliness and jealousy and hatred can sniff out its trail, too. When it's good, it makes us lace fingers and curl into each other's arms. When it's over, it makes us curl into a ball. Alone. Starting over from scratch. Again.

Love is confusing. And complicated. Defined yet undefinable.

The Lover's Dictionary
, an experimental novel by David Levithan, explores this very thing. The novel originally evolved from a story that Levinthan had given to friends as a Valentine's Day gift. Released in 2011, I recently discovered it, or rather, it discovered me, as I believe books tend to do.

Levithan, a young adult novelist, best known for penning such fare as Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist, approaches the many facets of love through words. The novel is composed of dictionary/journal entries in which nouns and adjectives provide the impetus to exploring and understanding feelings, beliefs, memories, and experiences of love. The nature of love is beautiful. The hypocrisy of love is ugly.

The Lover's Dictionary is organized alphabetically, but the entries describe events and moments that are not necessarily in chronological order. As Levinthan states in one entry: "We do not divulge our histories chronologically. It's not like we can sit each other down and say 'Tell me what happened,' and then rise from that conversation knowing everything."

It's like he's saying that the only known is that we will never know everything: about ourselves, the world, nature, love, or even our most intimate lovers and friends.

Early on, Levinthan's unnamed narrator states: "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."

Who wouldn't want to be in love? It's like asking, who wouldn't want to be happy?

However, in another entry, a character thinks: "I am myself, and that is the point. Pairing is a social construction. It is by no means necessary for everyone to do it. Maybe I'm better like this…"

The moments described in Levithan's unconventional novel may be from one couple's relationship or that of many different relationships. It doesn't matter. What matters is that they reveal the intimacy, the truth, the uncertainty, and the undefinable nature of love.

"I've always been deeply terrified to really be someone's wife since I know from life one cannot love another, ever, really," Marilyn Monroe once wrote in her private journal, while married to playwright Arthur Miller.

As another Valentine's Day approaches, remember this:

We all have our own moments. And love is not easy for anyone.

©2012 by KLiedle

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