I say - and have said - often enough that I enjoy reading for fun. The vast majority of the time I spend with an open book (or an open e-book on my tablet, phone, or Kobo) is all about losing myself in a narrative and having a good time. To be clear: having a good time can be laughing or crying, getting caught up in a character's life, or trying to suss out a mystery. I love reading for this reason, and I do it unashamedly.
But I do have times where I want to immerse myself in prose or poetry that isn't passive. Where I'm learning as much as I'm reading, or where - with a sudden awareness - I'm in awe of the turn of phrase or a narrative progression. It makes me calm, and the world quietens, and I lose myself in a very different way.
I'm going to say it again (because it bears repeating): I'm not a literary snob. I have my fancy-schmancy degree, and I studied for it, and I read all the "greats" and I even enjoyed most of them. You'll also have to pry my paranormal contemporary books from my angry, clenched hands.
Now, why do I bring this up? Well, I'm about to do something I don't often do, and talk about the craft as well as the narrative.
"A Story from Childhood," by Alex Jeffers
This first tale from The Abode of Bliss: ten stories for Adam sent me into that peaceful zen place almost from the first phrase. The words and language here are brilliant, evoking a different time, place, and culture with effortless grace. I fell into this story, and despite sitting in a crowded food court and all the noise and whirl around me, for a short time, I was under house arrest, smelling the stuffy hot air, hearing voices in accents I barely know.
Even though the story itself is of a time that's hardly peaceful, the elegance of the prose was just so damned wonderful. Frankly, that was one of the best lunch breaks of my life.
This is my favorite kind of short fiction - tales woven separately but a part of a greater whole, and the voice behind this story already hints at the larger whole this collection will present.