The ocelot never bites

{ Tuesday, May 13, 2008 }

Because the public libraries have been so wonderful where I've lived for the past 12 years, I haven't indulged in collecting books the way I used to. But I so enjoy time spent with the books I cannot explain owning.

I mean, I know why I have a copy of The Well-Wrought Urn and The Letters of Thomas Wolfe. But who knows what compels a person to own a copy of The Curious Lore of Precious Stones? Or The Book of the Courtier? Or, as I bring you tonight, Conversations with Dali?

All I know is that when I revisit my shelf, it's the oddities that make me happiest. If, in the middle of writing, I absolutely must see a picture of Italian wrought iron gates or understand the anatomy of the human foot, why, old friends are right here in my house to oblige me.

And if I wake in the middle of the night, terrified by bizarre dreams, who better to sing me back to sleep than wonderful Salvador Dali. (I mean, who would you want? The person who kept insisting your dreams weren't real?)

Here he is, interviewed by Alain Bosquet, who so often sounds like he wants to toss a glass of whiskey in Dali's face.

* * * * * * * *
A.B.: You love your faults.

S.D.: In my case, they're not faults.

* * * * * * * *
A.B.: How about a word or two on the titans of tradition: Michelangelo, Tintoretto, and Rubens.

S.D.: Except for Vermeer, Velasquez, and Raphael, they're all impotent.

A.B.: That's not an answer.

S.D.: You realize that we geniuses are all more or less impotent, starting with myself. Of all the impotent, Michelangelo was the most seriously afflicted. If he were living today, he'd be a radical-socialist painter.

A.B.: Your answers don't satisfy me. Let's go on to Raphael. There was a time, a dozen years back, when you gave Raphael an A plus for technical know-how. Evidently, you'd give yourself A plus.

S.D.: Yes, it's fun handing out marks to painters as if they were naughty little pupils. As you know, I hand out different report cards from week to week, and sometimes I flunk Raphael.

* * * * * * * *
A.B.: What would Dali paint if he were a Buddhist?

S.D.: One of the central ideas of Buddha and Euclid, namely that perfection and Nirvana are shaped like an egg. I would paint eggs.

* * * * * * * *
A.B.: If Sophia Loren came in here naked, what would be the first thing you'd do?

S.D.: I'd say hello.

* * *

See? You've forgotten your bad dream, haven't you? And that doesn't even get to him shouting Ole at the death of Lorca and then feeling a little bad about it, or all the parts about the ocelot that is roaming around the room throughout the interviews.

The ocelot, through Dali, gets the last word of the evening: "The ocelot never bites, but machines, like slaves, always revolt in the end."

Happy reading, all!

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