||4 ROBERT E. HELBLING Yet, we will also quickly recognize that the grotesque is subject to a good deal of cultural and personal relativism. An Amazon Indian in a modern operating room with its tentacular gear and the noseless creatures manipulating it, might find the scene both terrifying and funny. Moreover, a prolonged acquaintance with the strange breeds familiarity; to the contemporary citizen of Paris the gargoyles of Notre Dame are as comfortable as a pair of old loafers. Or, with your indulgence, an example out of my personal experience. When I first crossed the primeval landscape of the Nevada desert, at every sporadic turn of the road expecting to see a moribund dinosaur in search of a last puddle of water, and subsequendy driving into the Neon paradise of Reno, saw in the casinos strange mechanical dolls servicing one-armed bandits, I must say the experience was "uncanny," to use a conveniently vague term. Somehow, the proposition: "where dinosaurs roamed, there will be gambling casinos" seemed to lack the compelling necessity of a causal nexus. The experience rather suggested a spatial, if not temporal, juxtaposition of two utterly unrelated levels of reality. A mildly paranoid painter might depict the sensation with a watch hanging limply from a charred tree stump, and an amorphous, somewhat skeletal thing lying in the foreground: the whole a symbol, maybe, of a sated civilization superimposed on the vestiges of a long-since vanished age. But when I drive through Reno these days, the surrealistic impact has paled like a childhood impression shrouded in the mists of time. I mention this digressive personal experience because I wish to bracket out surrealism from consideration. Surrealism may indeed dip into the grotesque stew, but more often than not it suggests mysterious, supra-causal, therefore "surreal" "correspondences" (to talk with Baudelaire) between seemingly unrelated things. Buoyed by the artist's exuberant joy of liberation from representationalism, it may at times border on the farcical - a tuba poised in the sky, to suggest the imminent blare of thunder - or indulge in mild satire as in this Magritte portrait of a philistine airhead. In poetry, it often metamorphoses, thereby intensifying, sensory impressions: "a red pearl of sweat falling down a vertical needle"3 might suggest the sun setting behind a church spire on a sweltering, smog-filled summer day. These dislocations in the portrayal of sensory and mental experience usually have an "alienating" effect on us. So does the grotesque. But not every alienating effect is grotesque. Quite often, in surrealism the effect is mere surprise and amusement.