Now that I have all my time more or less to myself, reading has become a reward rather than a duty. Now when I read it is an act without obligation. I find that I am kinder to fiction, more willing to meet a piece on its own terms. There is always the running critique in my head, not articulate, just a thread of response, liking this and disliking that, drawn forward by the motion of the sentences, then moreso as the drama beguiles. Reading is so many experiences. Reading fiction is what I am really talking about here. When a story becomes compelling, what has happened? I am inside a certain book at a moment. I have opened it with that bit of trepidation. Will the writer know what to do? Will I understand it? What kind of prose will I find? I can read in service to the use of language, the placement of words, their sound and form and beat. If the writing is very strong it hits unexpected notes and that’s what keeps me sitting at the book. It might be the slightest sort of moment as long as its sentences are well-arranged. If the piece manages engagement with a story, with a sense of person, and this goes well, I want to hold onto the reading, to continue as long as I can. If the story is one that touches my boundaries, shares something like what I know (or want to know) then I am suspended inside the writing. I think of this as the most pleasurable experience of all, and engagement of the whole. My emotions are exercised. When I read for the intellect it is a cooler experience. Some writing ignores drama in favor of thought and weight. I enjoy these books more than I used to but nevertheless find it easy to put them down. I might respect the book without liking it very much. Yet the reading is still a comfort. I am improving myself by the act.