There are people on this planet who are convinced within themselves that they’ve been abducted by aliens, beamed aboard spaceships that hover just outside Earth’s various satellite detection systems, tortured by said aliens for hours on end, then returned to their homes–broken, but alive. Barely alive. I woke up this morning feeling just like that. Spent and aching, body and soul. What I needed, I decided, was to spend the day reading a book that would grab me by the hairs of my heart, so I could forget my own mental and physical anguish.
You might say that I longed for a good book.
Logically, I headed for my nearest bookstore. I left two hours later, empty handed and despondent. Note the following sentence from a randomly opened page of a book whose name and author I can’t bring myself to remember:
I looked at him longingly.
I dragged my spent and aching ass out of bed for a good book, and the best you could do, O Anonymous Author, was: I looked at him longingly?
long (verb) :
to have an earnest or strong desire or craving; yearn.
There is something seriously wrong here if the definition of the word long moves me and a character who is supposedly longing for someone does not. At this point, I don’t even care about the context. I don’t care if this character goes on for three pages to describe the “him” for whom she was longing. Hell, she could be looking longingly after Heath Ledger–who deserves all the longing looks he gets–and I wouldn’t give a shit. Because, O Anonymous Author, your character cannot look at someone longingly. I–the reader–have to long. This goes beyond the Show-Don’t-Tell mantra. This is just damned lazy writing. And yet…O Anonymous Author’s novel is sitting on my local bookstore’s shelf. Hence, my despondence.
Then, about halfway home, I heard Melissa Etheridge’s hot, rugged voice pleading from the depths of my radio:
I would dial the numbers just to listen to your breath.
Not her lover’s voice, or even her lover’s words. Just to listen to your breath. Melissa Etheridge is a woman who knows a thing or two about longing.
Just like me. Because right now, still, I am longing for a good book.