The Help Desk: Is it okay to lie about books?

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Dear Cienna,

I have a nasty secret. I really like to pretend I've read books that I've never actually read. Sometimes I'll be at a party and someone will start talking to me about — here's a recent example — Gore Vidal. I've never read Gore Vidal, but I enthusiastically lied and said that I had, that I enjoyed many of his books. But it's not just the lie; I like to get really risky with my book chat. I'll sometimes string along the conversation, becoming more and more specific in my commentary. I said, for instance, that the dialogue in Gore Vidal's novels are often wooden. Is his dialogue wooden? I don't know. But the person at the party believed me.

I'm pretty honest otherwise, and I read a substantial book or two a month. I'm fairly well-read, but I will leap at the chance to tell lies about books I've never read. Is this a cardinal sin? Am I going to wind up in some literary circle of hell, where Gore Vidal and J.G. Ballard and Gertrude Stein shove fondue forks into my haunches while reading their collected works aloud?

Beverly, White Center

Dear Beverly,

That is not a nasty secret — a nasty secret is the tattoo I have on my left buttock of a fist punching a baby with the word 'YOLO' inscribed under it. What you seem like is a lot of fun to have at parties. Lying about books is the most harmless form of lying I can think of and makes conversing with hordes of drunk strangers in enclosed spaces sound almost appealing.

I mean, what else are you going to talk about? Politics? The weather? The politics of weather, which is a stupidly fraught topic thanks to climate change deniers, who can often pass as sane people at first glance? Personally, I'd rather take a cheese grater to my nipples than get trapped talking about any of those subjects.

If there is a circle of Hell reserved for people like you, it certainly must be the most fun circle of Hell — the kind populated with people who eat raw cookie dough straight from the bowl and women with tattoos of a fist punching a baby with the word 'YOLO' inscribed under it.

Just be careful and know your audience. There are some people it's never a good idea to deceive for your own amusement. For instance, spiders. They have six eyes and at least four of them can detect lies.