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Ask Dr. Salvo

February 20, 1996

Ask Dr. Salvo

Dear Dr. Salvo,

I read the description of your upcoming book with delight. Congrats, Bravo, Way to go Salvo.

After getting over the elation of realizing that you did it, it's a book! I noted with deep interest that you offered the possibility of money exchanging hands in the design of the cover. Let me be the first to extend my hand in wishing you well.

Since there are many five-year-olds with more drawing ability than I, and since I've been told that I am a passably good photographer, may I suggest you use a photograph on the cover? It would be black and white so you could still use the green and blue border you seem so attached to and you'll still be able to keep that economical three-color (counting white) printing cost.

I'm sure when you solicited ideas in your column that you had no notion of how eagerly and often people will not tell you how they would do it, if it were their book. Indeed, so many of us are now giving ourselves free reign to do so that I suspect you cannot stand the thought of any more creativity.

When others tell you how it should be done, despite your having locked in final galleys and artwork with your printer, you need but fall back on the most important thing you learned to do while in medical school. After the friend, acquaintance, cop on the beat, Fotomat retailer, etc. has told you how they would do it, were it their book, simply smile (or nod your head knowingly), and say nothing. Or, if you're in an expansive mood, tell the donator of ideas that he/she is an unqualified genius and thank them for helping you to better realize your vision. Then go on and do exactly what you'd planned to do in the first place.

This is the first of my ideas. Proffered in light of the knowledge that people are literal. Amazingly so. By way of illustration I submit that you consider Hollywood's dilemma: the movie was initially called "The Madness of King George III," but they had to cut the number at the end because focus groups kept asking what happened in parts I and II. Perhaps a subtitle to Brazilian Psychiatry would circumvent the perils of literal interpretation.

Do you think this would do the trick? Brazilian Psychiatry: Dr. Salvo Teaches You How to Leave Your Mind Alone. You can figure out a way to give due credit to James Thurber in the Forward or something. This idea is offered free of charge, because I'm large and want to help you realize your vision.

The next idea will cost you $100 (cover) $75 (inside) because if you use it, you must hire me to do the photography. Don't even continue to read if you aren't willing to pay. I will barter for neither services nor goods nor ego massaging. I want money. This document is on file with my lawyer and he knows where you live. There are laws about theft of intellectual property, even in the Heart of Dixie.

Photo idea: B&W photograph (with green and blue graphic border) featuring Dr. Salvo himself as bewildered patient in usual psychiatric-type setting, shot with medium-wide angle of back of head of psychiatrist-type person in the foreground. (Dr. Charles Smith would be great in this capacity because he really looks like a kindly shrink, even from the back.) We can put in Oriental rug and a cigar in the shot to evoke Sigmund Freud-like cachet. You, Dr. Salvo, will be shown asking the central question posed by Alabama's highways, "But Doctor, Are there any live armadillos?" You have no one but yourself to blame for this sort of thing crowding out important mail in your postal box. This should learn you about soliciting the masses to send you their ideas.

Again, congratulations. Best wishes for success. May you become a New York Times Bestseller.


Dear Laura,

Many thanks for your delightful letter. It revived happy and hilarious memories of life in Spring Hill Gully, when you were quite small but imbued with the impulse and talent for leadership. I saw you rounding the bend in the gully, scrappily attired in Kudzu leaves and orange sand, and pridefully pulling along behind you a red wooden wagon. Two of your brothers brought up the rear, though I am tempted to say the poop. Pointing to a mound on the floor of the wagon you smiled knowledgeably and explained, "We are taking Grunt for a ride." This was a solid chunk of Freudian insight.

For years I've wondered when this early anal understanding would flower on Wall Street and make us all rich. Now I see from your letter that your interest persists. This is grand and I support the trend, but you must not imagine that Salvo has any loot of which to be scrounged. Together we must extract the money from alma mater, The Harbinger. The motto "teaches you how to leave your mind alone"!! --- that is genius stuff. It goes a long way now to explain what the book is about. I forget to tell you I am color blind or something and all borders to me are blue, green, or both.

I enjoyed very much your congratulation -- but I won't feel it is a book till it is a book in my hand and in at least one book store and purchased by one bibliophile (or curiosity collector).

I like your proposed design for the next edition -- is that the word? -- of Brazilian Psychiatry. If there is/are one or more, we will certainly have a look at your photo/design. You are an excellent photographer. I have several lovely samples of your work on my walls.

Hark! Do I hear the phone? It must be Barnes & Noble and Books A Million trying to arrange a book signing! Perhaps my cousin Forrest will be there!


The Harbinger