“The lies we tell ourselves are not invariably valuable in and of themselves. As with mirrors, whose mercury backing peels and lets shine through either the shadow of black felt or the dazzling lights of a glass world fleetingly glimpsed through aghast gaps in our own face, the effect of a lie’s reflection resides more in the acuity of the observer than in the veracity of the facsimile to ‘the truth.'”
“So, then, the brushwork of the artist, the noble tones of the poet, the arias the maestro elicits from his able minions, are to be dismissed as useless tradecraft? The sloppiest pot and the most pristine vessel are of equal value as aesthetic objects, since, truly, the value is created in ‘the eye of the beholder?’ This seems an absurdity, and your own hard-wrought sonnets mitigate against your sincerity in putting forth this case, my dear Baudelaire.”
Baudelaire leaned against the green velvet couch like a panther at ease in the hot afternoon light of the veldt. Almost, there was a smile at the corners of his mouth as he contemplated the double fan of his fingertips pressed together in a calculating sophist’s homage to prayer. An eyebrow arched wearily, and he began to explain, to make his case, to reel me in as he had done many hundreds of times before.
“Never doubt the infinitude of art, the caress or sparkle of its multitudinous baubles. Simply know that it is a seduction; that all things are a seduction; and all the seducers are whores. ‘The truth’ is merely one color in the palette. Do we question the rouge of a lover’s cheek? Does her excitement come from being thrust against the skin of her beloved, or because a jealous husband is hunting her down–even as she gives you her ‘all’? Is your eye wide at the delight of her nearness, her having chosen you, or because you have cheated death for another night in the infinite ennui of existence? Do you recall her name after even just a little time has passed, or when in the clutches of consummation you confuse your lover with the deity and cry out as if in ecstatic prayer: ‘God, O, God!’?”
I felt both confused and intrigued by this line of thought. What was the source of my most cherished experiences? Did I gasp at a Venus de Milo out of some aesthetic apprehension, some revelation too deep for words, or simply because I willed myself to be seduced by her beguiling beauty’s promise of immortality? Would a wanton serve as well as a Valkyerie for inspiration? My eyes grew heavy as I pursued these imponderables. The room felt warm and distant, a cage swaying on a golden rope in a dark cave.
“I see you are peering precipitously into yourself, my dear Bonadventure. What inner dramas have conducted you to your own drear depths? What surfaces have conjured and compelled your inward gaze, mystic of the self’s endless principle? And, thus, you see, the mirror’s seduction is accomplished. Your eye, flitting among feather dancers and imperishable marble monuments, has come to rest on the rolling boil of your own inner state. What is this if not seduction? Seduction and betrayal. For now you are blind to what is right in front of your nose.”
I don’t know how he did it–if it was some form of mezmerization, or if indeed he knew the key to art and was telling ‘the truth’ about truth being but a color in the palette of seduction. But, whatever the case, on hearing mention of my nose, I focused on the reddened tip thereof, and was astonished to find a flame rising less than an inch in front of it. Egad!
“Your bowtie is almost completely burned away, Bonadventure. It was in egregious taste, but perhaps you are more attached to your mustache. Water?”
And so saying, Baudelaire threw the whole carafe of water at my head, dousing the flame, and commencing his maniacal laugh, as much like a macaque monkey as a three-penny opera’s evil genius.