Sade was one of several short works of self-styled polemical scholarship that Jonathan Bowden produced in the early 90s. I don't think many people have read it. It's hard to say just where it fits in the broader scheme of Sade studies, if it has a place at all. I like to believe it has a place.
Bowden approached the scholarly monograph much the way Dubuffet attacked a canvas. His perspective was that of an outsider and he wrote with casual disregard for the formal strictures of any discipline, favoring a kind of neurotically invested free-associative abandon to the worn path of disinterested criticism. It is this quality, however untrustworthy, that I believe marks his psychobiographical portrait of the infamous Marquis de Sade as something of lasting impression. The insight Bowden brought to a "problematic" subject still represents a peculiar disturbance in the literature — one suffused with feverish, flesh-borne vitality.
Despite its slight heft, Sade is a densely layered book. At digressive turns, Bowden devotes appreciative yet discerning attention to the work of Kathy Acker, Andrea Dworkin, William Burroughs, Wilhelm Reich, surrealist polemicists, and such other aesthetic and metapolitical expressions that may be considered under the long shadow of the Bastille. Whether the relevant pronouncements anticipate the author's reactionary turn is a question for the jury.
I'm very proud to bring this book back into print. I only regret that it is being released after the author's untimely death. I wasn't expecting that. Jonathan Bowden was a pleasure to work with. The world is less interesting without him.