I bought The Lover's Dictionary not long after reading Maggie's thoughts about it and I finally found the time to read it this week. I couldn't put it down and hurried through it in just a couple of hours, but I found myself flipping back to re-read and re-read passages. I also found myself holding the book against my chest, thinking of my own relationships, past and future.
I turned the page corners down* on my favourite "definitions" and after a few, I realized I was favouriting the happy ones, that spoke of giddy, wanting-it-to-last love. I smiled and hoped that this said something about me. And then I turned the corners down on some that were sad, that spoke of annoyed, desperate, wondering-if-it-should-last love. I sighed and knew that this said something about me.
The pages I turned down -- both happy and sad -- do say something, about all of us. They say that we are not alone in our feelings and our experiences. Although they feel unique to us (and they are in some ways), the ups and downs of love are universal. Levithan does a remarkable job of capturing that.
Here are excerpts from a few of my turned-down pages:
It has always been my habit, ever since junior high school, to ask that question:
"What are you thinking?"
It is always an act of desperation, and I keep on asking, even though I know it will never work the way I want it to.
The slight acne scars. The penny-sized, penny-shaped birthmark right above your knee. The dot below your shoulder that must have been from when you had chicken pox in third grade. The scratch on your neck -- did I do that?
This brief transcript of moments, written on the body, is so deeply satisfying to read.
You were drunk, and I made the mistake of mentioning Showgirls in a near-empty subway car. The pole had no idea what it was about to endure.
They are so happy on such a base level that they don't seem to understand that it's possible to have anything other than a base level of happiness. I catch you desiring that. For your past? For your present? Your future? I have no idea. I never know what you really want, if I can give it to you, or if I'm already too late.
It's always something we have to negotiate -- the fact that my parents are happy, and yours have never been. I have something to live up to, and if I fail, I still have a family to welcome me home. You have a storyline to rewrite, and a lack of faith that it can ever be done.
When it's going well, the fact of it is everywhere. It's there in the song that shuffles into your ears. It's there in the book you're reading. It's there on the shelves of the store as you reach for a towel and forget about the towel. It's there as you open the door. As you stare off on the subway, it's what you're looking at. You wear it on the inside of your hat. It lines your pockets. It's the temperature.
The hitch, of course, is that when it's going badly, it's in all the same places.
*I know. You're not supposed to turn page corners down. And I don't usually. Promise. But this was a special case where I was enthralled and had nothing to mark the pages with -- no sticky notes, no bookmark, not even a kleenex.