Liar Liar Books On Fire
by Nicole Freire
Lovely stack of books isn't it? I was especially proud of this photograph because I took it in the evening, and I only had to take 10 or so to get one into focus. Some of the medications I take cause my hand to tremor and shake, and the evenings are when it's at its worst. So my photography has suffered.
But I distracted you there, didn't I? Because what I really want to tell you all is that I have a secret, one I'm finally willing to come clean about. Is there a difference between a secret and hiding? I'd like to say it's a good secret, but really, it's just an embarrassing one, and one I really have to confess to.
I wish it was a nice secret -- that I'm secretly fantastically wealthy, and just pretend to work. Or that I'm the healthiest person in the world, and my constant throat problems and headaches are really just my way of trying to garner sympathy for imagined illnesses.
Oh, this would make a great secret! That I'm really wealthy! Oh shoot, I said that already. Money must be on my mind.
I should just get down to it. This is what I'm writing about today. To admit to the world-at-large (or at least Santa Barbara and its environs) that I am a LIAR. That I have been lying for a number of years about…something. Maybe lying is too harsh. Gently sidestepping, maybe?
Take a look at the photograph of the stack of books (and yes, those are all on my nightstand. I like building book forts). My big lie is right in there. Take another look. Anything stand out? There are quite a few mystery books, some non-fiction, a book about how to deal with tweens, and finally, do you see it?
It's the first Harry Potter book. And here's the big reveal, my secret. I have not read the Harry Potter books. I have let people believe that I have read ALL the Harry Potter books. I may have even said, ‘Oh yeah, love those Harry Potter books!' in casual conversation.
I'll say it again. I HAVE NOT READ THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS. I LIED ABOUT READING THEM.
I have, however, seen all the Harry Potter movies. Of course, saying that is something you never want to admit. Hey, have you read, "Gone Baby Gone" Uh, no, but I saw the movie (another lie. I read the book and then saw the movie)!
How about not reading all of the Lord of Rings books, but going on and on about how Peter Jackson really brought the books to life in the movies when secretly you just love Viggo Mortensen. I have not read the Lord of the Rings books, but they were read to me, so I can say that I've read them.
But let's return to my Harry Potter admission. I have no real good excuse for why I haven't read them. My father is a librarian. I have lost myself in books for years, escaping any and all recesses to read. And I love a good series. Laura Ingalls, Betsy-Tacy, every Nancy Drew, the Narnia books, there hasn't been a childhood series that I haven't read and loved.
By the way, I remember very clearly how shocked I was at the end of the Narnia series. Aslan was GOD? What? (I was very disappointed in the movie however, because I do not think that Aslan [or God] sounds like Liam Neeson.)
Harry Potter! Magic! Pathos! Small children in unpleasant circumstances! Boarding school! Scars! Uniforms! All the elements were there. But I just couldn't get into them. I would pick up the book to give it another try and I'd get a chapter or two in and then set it aside.
Mike Birbiglia, a wonderful comedian, has this great line about putting things off. He discovered he had a serious sleep problem and said something along the lines of how he knew he had to go see a doctor but then he thought, but I also really need to have lunch.
The lying about reading the books just got worse as time went on, because J.K. Rowling wrote another and another, and the books got longer and thicker, and the suspense just got more and more feverish. People waiting in lines, children delighting in getting their hands on a 300 page book and devouring it in a few days.
Luckily for me, Harry Potter fans are pretty good at not revealing in conversation what happened in each book. No spoilers here, they were going to go along with the spirit of magic, and not ruin the books for others by spilling the beans about the ending.
It was when the last book came out that I was really stuck in my lie. Everyone and their grandmother were breathlessly waiting for that damn book, and when it finally came out people were losing their minds.
When people would want to talk about it with me --- because, obviously, the last book! Potter fans were freaking out! They wanted to discuss it and mull over it and I would put my hands over my ears and say "Oh, don't talk to me about it! I haven't finished it yet!" Or, "Shush, don't tell me anything! Don't spoil it for me!"
And everyone complied.
It got so bad that finally I went into a bookstore and did something I thought I would never do. I went and got the book and flipped right to the end and read the last chapter. Now I know how it all ends.
Do you hate me? I hope not, because I'm trying to make amends on many fronts. My daughters are getting older and every day seems to go by so fast. And I am compelled to read at every given opportunity. I like to have a few books going on at the same time so that I'm never caught without one; one at work, one in the car, always one in my bag, and a ridiculous stack next to the bed.
But I can be selfish about my reading, because I need it so much. It's my version of oxygen. I needed to slow things down, I wanted to draw us all in together, something to sit around the fire (metaphorically speaking, who needs a fireplace in July?) with and give us time to spend together doing an activity that didn't involve me begging my children to eat. So one day I said to everyone in Chez Freire - "We're going to read all the Harry Potter books! Together!"
It is a slow process. We are about halfway through the first book, the one I have had since the whole Harry Potter train started. We take turns reading chapters out loud to each other as we all try to squeeze into the same bed or lie on the living room carpet together. We don't do it every night. I'm happy if we can get in a chapter or two a week. Mostly I'm happy that we are all together and reading -- two of my favorite things.
Now I just have to put my faith into this darn book, and hope that somewhere along the line I will get hooked. And hooked I must be because we are going to read ALL of those books, every single one of them. I made a promise to my family and now that my secret is out, well, I've sort of promised all of you too, haven't I?
When you see me next you can ask, "Hey Nicole, have you read the Harry Potter books?" and I'll say, "That is very funny.
No, I have not read all the Harry Potter books. But I am in the middle of reading the first one, so don't spoil the ending for me."
Oh, and remember the super secret wedding I told you about? It was a great secret and probably the best wedding I've ever attended. It was amazing -two people getting married on a Tuesday evening at Goleta Beach. It was romantic and irreverent. I made the bride a purple bouquet and blew bubbles. One friend took pictures while the other officiated. Another friend tucked purple flowers in the brim of her hat.
I almost cried, but then I tripped on a rock and totally bruised the heel of my right foot. Luckily it was a wedding and you know what that means, right? Right. CAKE.
Congratulations to my dear friends, may you always have beach tar on your feet and your heads in the stars.
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Nicole Freire is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.