Put It Down

I have no desire to watch the upcoming season of Stranger Things.

Which is odd, because I absolutely loved the first two seasons, for all the common reasons. The actors are all excellent, the writing is taut and expressive, the plot is both very human and very deeply immersed in a dark and unknowable otherness.

But it seems that my ability and desire to enjoy that thematic universe exactly matched the duration of the first two seasons. I watched the season 2 finale and in that moment realized I never needed to go back there. The thought of re-watching the first two seasons feels dull and tedious; the thought of watching the third season makes me slightly nauseated.

As I was mildly pondering why I'm having this reaction I remembered advice given by my favorite teacher in high school. It was my junior year, I was taking advanced English, and she casually mentioned that just because you start a book doesn't mean you have to finish it.

The startled stares around the room made her pause and she smiled after a moment.

“How many of you have put down a book without finishing it?”

Concerned glances were passed around the room. Can...can you do that? Finally someone said, “But...but what if it gets better?”

Nods. Yes. That was it. Maybe the book got better! You can't put down books!

Our teacher sat on her desk, departing from her lesson plan.

“Two questions: First is it worth it? If a book is bad for three quarters before it gets 'better' does the last fourth justify the first three fourths? Second: Is it likely? If a book is bad for three fourths what are the odds the author suddenly changes and starts writing well?”

Back to concerned looks. She laughed just a little. “Okay, extra credit assignment. I will give twenty points to anyone who turns in a report about a book they didn't finish. A book that you started, disliked, and deliberately put down and walked away from.”

I don't know how many of those reports she got back. (Mine was about Snow Falling on Cedars.) But since then I've thanked her memory over and over again for the superhuman power to put down a chunk of content—be it a book, a movie, or an ongoing television series— and be okay with that.