We read as if gasping for breath. To keep on reading is at times a strange, imperious need, something like a burst of energy late in a run, when there seems to be no air left in one’s lungs. The writer is a reader in extremis, someone for whom stopping is not part of the game. When the Stoics wrote about virtuous death, the fact is that they did write about it, not die about it. They spoke of absence by filling it with letters.