Most helpful positive review
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
The best (if not only) intro to De Sade
on April 7, 2004
I'm writing this to balance out the nay-saying. I think the Totem series is fairly hit or miss. It depends on whomever is handling the info. For example, their `Introducing Machiavelli' and `Introducing Descartes,' are remarkably wonderful. Then you have, `Introducing Postmodernism,' and `Introducing Baudrilliard,' both of which suck, in my humble opinion. I don't know- the closer that Totem gets to the 20th C, the more they tend to fail... Their books on Wittgenstein and Nietzsche, for example, are on the good side of decent... With Foucault, Heidegger and Barthes, they really loose some steam (surprisingly, I like the Deridda book immensely, which stands out...)
`Introducing De Sade' stands easily in the former category. It's simply great! It is a dense, worthwhile and illuminating effort that succeeds in every way. It puts the man in his Enlightenment context, contrasting him with other thinkers of his era. It gives a thorough biographical account of his life and his work's chronological development. It also handles later writer's use and misuse of De Sade.
I'm a big fan of this book for a number of reasons.
1. There isn't much out there on De Sade that provides a suitable introduction to him (and his novels are nigh-unendurable, in terms of their tedious repetitions and long-winded philosophical discourse. You HAVE to be in it for the long haul to plod through them).
2. De Sade is still a very neglected thinker, despite the fact that he was honest and highly original. This book looks at each of his main works and seeks to understand them on their own ground. Then it attempts to flesh out the underlying systematic philosophy behind the pornography, succeeding admirably I think.
Ultimately, I just don't understand all the negative reviews. The book is a humorous discussion, but an honest and thorough one nonetheless. I don't think the book makes fun of `De Sade,' and even if were to do so, that would be preferable to the treatment the Marquis receives from comp lit purveyors around the globe- coddling him and treating him as a `moralist,' who `really didn't mean it.' De Sade dressed up as a moralist is about as funny as Hitler dressed up as a nun. He spent a good portion of hislife incarcerated and I can guarantee that he meant every (...) word! Which reminds me, there are lots of improper and naughty pictures in this, ohhhh! Beware.
At any rate, If you don't know much about this controversial and fascinating figure- this is the best place to start, I think.