Who suffers in the pursuit of desire?

Back at it; this damn black plague couldn’t keep me down for long. Well, alright, it was pneumonia, and it did keep me down for a week and a half; let’s focus on happier things, shall we?

And what’s happier than Justine, the Marquis de Sade’s first novella? Imprisoned in the Bastille for a paltry two weeks, De Sade managed to crank out this mini-tome of misfortune; and he paid dearly for it. Despite being one of his lesser visceral and graphic works, Justine landed him a declaration of insanity, and he was later indicted for blasphemy and obscenity at the behest of Napolean Bonaparte.

Justine is a thorough look at the battles of vice and virtue, of nurture versus nature; if a little monotone in its delivery–it lacks the grandiose perversity and sadistic qualities that de Sade came to be known for–it more than fills its pot with the unending question it leaves on readers’ tongues: what is the true meaning of virtue, and what is it worth?


In short, the cover of this edition of the novella (which, by the way, is not the full version of the text) is awful. I love the Perennial Forbidden Classics for what they are and what HarperCollins has done to bring banned and forgotten books back to the forefront, but this cover–a sultry photograph of a woman’s face, steeped in shadows and covered by hair–misrepresents the distinctly innocent to den-of-sin, rags to ashes journey of the main character.


Another unfortunate disappointment. Having been published in 2009, this book hasn’t succumbed to the test of time and the yellowing of pages–and most likely wasn’t pressed in anything close to the normal pocketbook fashion. At most, it holds a faint dusty smell, that of a newer bookstore. Although the scent doesn’t have much of a story to tell, the book itself sure does. In my head, I imagine the story smells of dank cell walls, musty with the spit of a thousand inmates; rusted-out shackles and spilled body fluids. Blood laces everything distinctly yet carefully. Lavender decays in the background.


Paperback pocketbooks are lost treasures of a bygone era. At the height of their popularity, they were used as a way to inexpensively get normal-length and longer format novels out to the masses. Once considered disposable – the term “pulp” comes from the low-quality paper they were printed on, prone to discoloring and literally recycled into pulp if the books didn’t sell, less the cover – they’re now hailed as collector’s items; and rightfully so.