It’s been a good year for the dark and satanic Marquis, what with a major biography and translations of his short stories and letters from prison—and now this fetchingly perverted novel from America’s answer to Angela Carter (and perhaps Isak Dinesen), the author of such baroque fiction as The Complete Butcher’s Tales (1994) and Phosphor in Dreamland (1995). The story initially focuses on the trial of the eponymous artisan who’s corresponded with Sade during his imprisonment (as an aristocrat targeted by the Revolution), provided erotically illustrated artifacts made to his order (flagellation is a favorite theme), and collaborated with him on a scurrilous little volume detailing the swath cut through the Mayan culture of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula by (Spanish) Bishop Landa, a murderous missionary resolved “to pacify the Indians and bring them to the Light of Christ”). In the increasingly declamatory second half, Sade himself offers a witty maledictory cataloguing of his own physical failings (“teeth as untrustworthy as dice, an anus with a mind of its own—) and his ego-driven espousal of unfettered freedom of expression (his wish “to embrace the immense disorder of voluptuousness”). There’s rather more detailed information about the craft of fan-making than most readers will require, and Ducornet does employ her characters—besides Sade and fan- maker Gabrielle, her intellectual soulmate and lover, feminist playwright Olympe de Gouges—as mouthpieces for the claims of individual freedom from convention and repression. But the novel is filled with amusingly irreverent stories within stories, such as Sade’s miscellaneous contrary accounts of his birth and upbringing, and Bishop Landa’s cautionary tale of how a disguised Satan tempted angels out of heaven, causing God to banish them and curse womankind forever. Elegant jaded entertainment. Readers who aren’t immediately glutted, and persevere through the calculated blasphemies and obscenities, will gratefully savor the fruits of Ducornet’s hothouse imagination.