I don't know if you are familiar with Martin Limón. He is a Pacific Northwest writer who mostly writes about Sergeants Sueño and Bascom, two Army CID cops in South Korea in the 1970s. I highly recommend his books, but it isn't his novels I want to discuss today.
It's something he wrote in the June issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. No, it wasn't a short story, although he does appear there often. In this issue he chose and introduced a story for the "Mystery Classic" corner. His choice was "To Build A Fire," by Jack London. If you haven't read it, treat yourself. It is short and gripping (I almost said chilling, which would have been a nasty pun).
What it isn't, as near as I can tell, is a mystery. There ain't no crime in it. But let that go.
The reason I bring it up is one sentence in Limón's introduction. Like a lot of people who write these intro's he chose to describe his reaction the first time he read the story, and this is what stuck in my head:
"When I emerged from the story I suffered that delicious disorientation well known to avid readers. For a time, I had forgotten where I was, or even who I was."
I hope you know what he's talking about. I think every dedicated reader has had that wonderful sense of being truly lost in a book. At our old address I wrote about one memorable occurrence. But there were others.
Sitting in the children's room of the Plainfield, NJ, public library, under the memorable storybookland mural, and getting so involved in a book that the librarian tell me that it was closing time. I pedalled my bike fast but I was VERY late for dinner.
Having to stop reading and walk around the house to shake off the shock of discovering the murderer's identity in Rex Stout's A FAMILY AFFAIR.
Sitting in a Wendy's hanburger joint and feeling that at the same time I was in a London park with George Smiley, following the footsteps of an elderly Russian spy trying to protect his "three proofs against the sandman."
This, I think, is one of the things we work toward as writers: to create a world so real and a story so compelling, that people get lost in it, becoming "deliciously disoriented."
Want to tell us about the times it happened to you?