Waiting for the Hook

173I liked the show Stranger Things.

If you’re out of the loop, Stranger Things is a Netflix series about a small town right outside a secret government base. Something happens and people start to go missing and it’s up to the town’s residents to figure out what’s going on and save a little boy named Will.

Anyway, I really loved this show. It’s a wonderful blend of three very common horror narratives: children coming of age and fighting monsters, like in Stephen King’s It or the movie Super 8; high school hallway horror, like in any 80s slasher film; and adults fighting human monsters and government corruption, like Cabin in the Woods. Stranger Things combines all of these plots to create one cohesive, highly addictive story that had me hooked as soon as I started watching it.

Now, earlier this week you brought up the show and said that you HATED it. The first three episodes were so boring you got up to do laundry while you watched. You also hated the characterization, which to be honest was one of the reasons I liked it. Anyway, my response to this was asking how far you got. You said three episodes and I said “oh, it picks up after that. You just have to push through.”

Where in the world did this logic come from? Why in the world do we force ourselves through boredom or painfully bad acting in hopes that it gets better? That’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about since we talked about Stranger Things, Daniel. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it all depends on who told you to.

So looking back at my own life I’ve on multiple occasions pushed my way through something boring because someone I trusted told me it would get better. The best example I have is Parks and Rec, a show which I can say without any sarcasm actually changed my life. However, before you get to the wonderful, positive, hilarious bits of that show you have to sit through the first season, which oh my god. I could get through maybe an episode a day and that was it.

It took me maybe two weeks to get through the first season. I got through the next six seasons in maybe a month, that’s how much it picked up.

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If I had just given up when it got boring I would never have experienced the positivity and beauty of that show. Why did I not give up? Because my friend Meredith told me not to, and I believed her. If anyone else had told me to keep going, I might not have, but I respected Meredith’s opinion.

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Me reading about the Dursleys in the first chapter.

Another example is Harry Potter. Now, I don’t know if you remember this, Daniel, but I didn’t read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first. I tried, but the first few chapters were SO BORING. I just couldn’t get through it. Then, my wonderful older brother gave me Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He told me “it’s kinda like a scary story and you like scary stories.” I gave it a try and WOW. I had been missing out!

How do you feel Daniel knowing it was you who got me into Harry Potter? If you hadn’t done that, I literally might not be married right now. Let that sink in.

On the other hand, there have been plenty of instances where I heard that I had to stick with something and it would eventually get good and it never did.

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Wanna know something? These twins,  the most iconic twins in all of movie history, WEREN’T IN THE BOOK. OH MY GOD.

 

The movie version of The Shining for instance. Stanley Kubrick ruined The Shining. He completely destroyed my favorite characters and stripped out all of the amazing characterization in order to prop up Jack Nicholson’s acting skills. I could go on, but I could write an entire spoiler filled post about how much I hate that movie.

The John Carter of Mars series was another. I read the first one. It was okay, but I kept hearing from people “oh, you have to read the rest! They’re amazing!” Actually, no they’re not. They’re surprisingly racist is what they are! I almost couldn’t finish them because I felt SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE.

When I think back to these two instances though, you know what the difference is? No one I trusted told me to give them a try, it was society that insisted these things were good. Everyone loves Kubrick so much so The Shining had to be a good movie! Wrong. Everyone adored John Carter of Mars so the sequels had to be awesome. Uh, no.

The point I’m trying to get to is that sometimes there are things that you have to “suffer through” to get to the good parts, but you shouldn’t use that logic for everything. Listen to the people who know you and follow your own interests rather than those of the masses. It will save you a lot of boredom.

Well, before I end this post I’ll just say, after some consideration, don’t bother trying to finish Stranger Things, Daniel. It tapped into my love of horror, which I know you don’t share so don’t put yourself through it. I will just be alone in my adoration of this show.

-EMS

Sustenance in Reading, Sustenance in Pleasure

I’ll open up by saying I don’t entirely disagree with you.  There are many books that have excellent cultural relevance and I would recommend them to people.

My biggest contention with Reading for Pleasure, Reading for Sustenance is the idea that you need to cleanse your palette with a book you should read.  Your analogy was how some books are like cookies and others like vegetables.

Now before you begin writing your retort, I do understand that I shouldn’t take it literally.  I know you would never draw a hard line in the sand, but for the sake of my point I’m going to continue the analogy.

I think with sustenance you shouldn’t tell people to eat their vegetables, but you should convince them the benefits of eating healthier.  I’m sure that’s similar to what you meant!  But there are many books that people have told me to read that sucked.

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Some of the best naps I’ve ever read

The Great Gatsby was a boring and I felt contained a lot of exposition that yanked me out of it.

Tortilla Flats was just a couple of dudes drinking the worlds supply of red wine.

The Catcher in the Rye is a long, meandering story of a kid and his weekend trip to New York.

This isn’t a rule.  Many modern classics are worth a read!  I’m particularly fond of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  However, as you know probably more than me, time and culture change the impact that books start to have.  They become harder to read with time and sometimes I feel they lose their classic status.

Having read many of these classics has taught me how to appreciate symbolism and subtext.  I can tell you why The Great Gatsby is a book about the American Dream.  The Catcher in the Rye is about the fear of growing up.  Tortilla Flats taught me that red wine ruins everything.  Everything.  I probably wouldn’t have liked Bear v. Shark: The Novel as much if I hadn’t read A Brave New World first.

Understanding these nuances in any book makes reading books more interesting.  You start to understand what makes good books good and bad books bad.  You learn to pick books that you like, and learn why you like reading them.

This new understanding makes me want to read more.  You are driven to find more good books.  Books that connect with you.  Books that entertain you.  Reading to attain knowledge, and reading to enjoy yourself.  Like you said, many of these books can be the same!

I think people should learn how to sustain themselves with reading.  Reading should take you somewhere with a purpose that you choose.  Because I’m able to appreciate some of the things in those classics, it helps me understand what I want to read next.  I recently finished At Home by Bill Bryson.  Its essentially a fucking textbook, but reading old histories made me more curious.

So for me, I wouldn’t often try and convince someone that they should read Dante’s Inferno because it’s better for them than, say, Animorphs. I might try and convince them that the book and others like it might make them appreciate what they read more.

When you begin to appreciate what you are putting into your brain you start making varied choices and search for the things that sustain you the most.  Lord of the Rings might secretly teach you that you love poetry, and you go buy a compendium of Emily Dickinson.  The Bible might help you understand religious standpoints, so next you read the Qur’an.  John Carter of Mars might convince you to read Speaker for the Dead because both of those books are dope as fuck.  The Catcher in the Rye might bore you to the point where you never pick up a book again, but thank goodness Barnes and Noble sells board games.

In that case, would it be a bored game?

Forgive me.

So to finish up the analogy:

Emily approaches Daniel and says, “Daniel!  You’ve had far too many cookies!  It is time to for something good for you!  Here is this new and strange vegetable that is nutritious.

“But dearest Emily, if it is so good for us, why don’t more chefs cook with this vegetable?  Or at least have recipes that incorporate this strange and frightening vegetable more?”  Daniel retorts while lowering his monocle.

“It has been at least a year since you’ve ingested anything our elders have deemed healthy!” Emily declares while ironically emptying her stein of beer.

“You make a good point, perhaps instead of eating the bitter roots of their labor, I will go to the market and pick for myself more foodstuffs than simply an enormous pile of cookies that also substitutes as my chair.” says Daniel while he attempts to hide the pizza boxes.

So: I want people to find sustenance in reading and pleasure, instead of feeling like they need to read boring older books to sustain themselves.

And perhaps it’ll stop some of them from going on crazy junk reading binges like the Twilight series.  Go read Anne Rice.  Or Animorphs.

-DTM