Dali, we learn from this probing and sensitive biography, fashioned into masterly works of surrealist art not only canvas and paint but also the public record of his own life. So the accomplishment of veteran art biographer Secrest (Being Bernard Berenson, Kenneth Clark) in digging through the glittering facade of Dali's life to haul the real man into daylight is one to be admired. Regettably, the man exposed is not so admirable. Blessed with angelic talents but cursed with a crippling inability to deal with relationships both personal and financial, Dali turned early on to mask, metaphor, sentimentality, and feigned madness and idiocy to interface with life's demands. (Money, for instance: Secrest relates a story of the filmmaker Luis Bunuel sending Dali across the street with some cash to buy theater tickets. Dali returned a half hour later, empty-handed. ""I can't figure it out,"" he said. ""I just don't know how to do it."") Thankfully, Secrest doesn't go for the Freudian to explain Dali's ways. Instead, she presents the facts and her reasoned assessments (including brilliant analyses of the artist's work) and lets the reader draw the implications. Treating Dali's sensational life--the privileged upbringing, the meteoric thrust to fame, the wealth and glamour, the pathetic eccentricities--with measured compassion, Secrest weaves a marvelous but finally tragic tale which ends with a wrenching visit to an aged, fearful, and isolated Dali, bedridden in a Spanish hospital. An exhaustively researched study that avoids easy answers in its incisive inquiry into the life, character, and art of its complex subject.