Red Sugar.

I shall warn you now that if you’ve been in agreement with my view on controversial subjects up until now, that this might be the post that makes you go, “dumb bitch.”

I’ll accept that.

Here’s the deal. You’ve heard of Joseph-Beth Booksellers over there on the South Side, right? Well, they’re involved in a little disagreement with Jan Beatty, a poet from Wilkinsburg, over a reading she wishes to do from her latest volume of poetry Red Sugar— a collection of poems with an erotic bent to them.

At first Joseph-Beth didn’t want her to read there unless they could pick which poems she could read. She cried “censorship.”

Joseph-Beth was worried that the children in the store would hear her over the microphone as she read her poems. So they offered her two other choices. Do a book signing without a reading. Or do a booksigning and a reading but without the microphone.

Beatty still cried “censorship” and refused their offer.

Miss Beatty? Do you even know what “censorship” means? Because I thought it meant the suppression or deletion of speech or writing.

Is someone from Jo-Beth burning your books? Is someone from Jo-Beth refusing to put it into print because of its explicit nature? Is someone taking a big black Sharpie and blacking out the words that offend? Is someone holding a hand over your mouth?

No. They’re saying hey, we’ll be happy to let you read whatever poem you want if you just do it quietly so that the children over there reading a tension-filled book about whether or not Winnie the Pooh will ever find that lost jar of honey will not have their ears bombarded with poems of sexuality and violence, which is exactly how you yourself described this book. This way, unless they stand near you and hang on your every word, they won’t hear what the critics described as “unflinching, vulgar” or “a gorgeous sexual book.” Or “she writes about women who are subjected to the worst vulgarities and subjugations, and the often furious way they respond.”

“I don’t understand them. I like the store and they say they support writers. Now they are censoring me.”

Asking you to speak quietly is NOT CENSORSHIP, you self-important windbag.

If you’re disagreeing with me so far, let me ask you, if you invited Ms. Beatty into your home and your children or nieces or nephews were in the room and Ms. Beatty began describing a sexual encounter she had the other night, would you not believe it to be your right and perfectly acceptable to say, “Hey, Jan. Can we take this into the kitchen? Little ears …” Of course you would! It’s NOT CENSORSHIP!

And do NOT expect me to change my views just because they let Ron Jeremy speak in the past. Is it at all possible, Burghers, that perhaps they learned their lesson from that and said, you know what? Let’s not broadcast this stuff next time.

It’s within Jo-Beth’s rights to determine who will speak in their store. It is within Ms. Beatty’s right to protest and feel upset about it. And it is within my right to tell Ms. Beatty that she’s being highly unreasonable and if she would just get her head out of her ass, she’d see that.

Beatty added that Joseph-Beth is presenting best-selling author David Sedaris next month, “and he’s pretty raunchy. Nobody’s telling him he can’t read there.”

Jan, are you even listening? They said you can read there! Why isn’t that getting through to her?

“My position is that the store needs to contact me to apologize and to let me read with no strings attached,” Beatty said.

Oh, for the love of God. Stop being a spoiled child who is throwing a breath-holding temper tantrum because she wanted the Sally Poops-a-Lot doll and instead her Mommy bought her the Frankie Pees-A-Lot. Stop pouting. Stop holding your breath until you get an apology that you do not deserve. Go do the reading, do it without the microphone out of respect for the fact that you don’t own the frickin’ store, and maybe just maybe you’ll win you some new fans. And maybe I’ll be one of them.

Okay, Burghers, you know how much I value your opinions and you have changed my mind in the past, you have. I gotta tell you, I really tempered my reaction here because If I’m being honest, my first reaction was to tell Ms. Beatty to take the microphone and shove it up her ass. But I didn’t. I totes took the high road, eh?

I’m completely open as to why you think my viewpoint is erroneous. Just play nice. Instead of writing, “PittGirl, you are a dumb bitch.” you can write, “PittGirl, with all due respect, you are a dumb bitch. Won’t you kindly shove it up YOUR ass.”



  1. Pirogie Kid
    April 24, 2008 3:20 pm

    Maybe she wants to bust out with a human beat box free-style, in that case you would totally need a mic

  2. Wanderer
    April 24, 2008 5:46 pm

    Will they ask David Sedaris to turn off the microphone? Some people don’t want their children exposed to homosexuality? And he talks about it.

  3. Piggy
    April 24, 2008 8:02 pm

    Jane, she’s “expressing her craft” through the publication of her book, not by reading it aloud.

    And Wanderer, are you serious? Are you actually drawing parallels between explicit descriptions of sex and violence to a man occasionally mentioning his boyfriend? Have you ever read Sedaris’ books?

  4. Wanderer
    April 24, 2008 8:54 pm

    Yes, I have read Sedaris. I’m getting at what people find offensive: what you find offensive might not offend someone else…Who gets to say? I know people who would rather hear anything heterosexual over anything gay. It’s slippery slope…Also, you should read him closer…His last book had a bit more edge…But he’s funny, so it slides by…And who said Red Sugar is explicit? Is everyone just trusting the bookstore to decide for them? I’m going to read it and make my own decision…Maybe I’ll get it from the library… :-0

  5. Still A. Fan
    April 24, 2008 9:12 pm

    jane is delusional as well…..

    the only thing thats slippery here is her logic. freaking public bookstores are not pulpits. i’m sorry if this sounds like a lecture – but damn people, i get mad at logic that doesnt make sense. let me ask you a question jane…..what if you were at a record store (wow. record store? who says that anymore? me! i’m 39!) with your child who is 6 and james blunt is there for a signing and they ask him to sing “you’re beautiful” and he has a guitar and obliges. he gets to the part where he says “i could tell right away that she was….fug and high” and it’s the first time your child ever heard that word and now you have to explain it. what right does james blunt have to do that in a public place? he doesnt. however, if you want to PAY to hear james blunt sing that – you can….in concert. allow this “writer” to sell tickets and have a show and she can stand up there and say “f f f f f f f f” if she wants to. but, a public bookstore where people just came in to buy and book and not hear her….isn’t the place for it. simple as that. these thick frame glasses wearing “ultra cool”, latte frappa mocha drinking types are gonna have to go snap their fingers in a poets club if they want to hear it….this is no more a slippery slope than a piece of sandpaper. do you see that? you wanna close the store at 9 and have an adult only reading – fine. you wanna pay the owners of the store for the money they’ll lose during that time then? no? then you better read your little poems that they approve and be freaking HAPPY they’re allowing you to do even that. censorship? good lord. the poor bookstore is already giving this woman too much publicity and they are giving her 97% of everything she wants!!! for crying out loud can we be reasonable people for once and see this for what it is?

  6. Steven
    April 24, 2008 10:15 pm

    Dear Still A Fan,

    If you are so gaddamn worried about your fucking childs ears, then stay home. Don’t take the kid out into the world where the rest of us live and do us all a favor.

    PS. I’m sure you love George W.

  7. In Sewickley
    April 24, 2008 11:19 pm

    Wow, what I don’t like on this blog post are all of the personal attacks.

    Hello, this is America…we’re able to air our piece without being shitcanned by the comment below us.

    “back in the burgh” said s/he doesn’t want her/his child to have to hear violent-filled poetry. How many parents (and I’m not accusing “back in the burgh” of this) let their kids watch sex, violence and swear words on TV?

    The poetry this woman has written has emotion. It isn’t some WWE event on The CW.

    And I wasn’t talking about three-year-olds anyway. But parents let their kids dress and act like Britney Spears and the like yet when it comes to areas where kids could learn something, people freak out. Come on!

    Young folks should be exposed at an early age to proper sexual content (like hearing the truth about where babies come from) and they should be introduced to things that aren’t common in their daily life like other races, cultures, sexual orientations. When people live in sameness they turn out to hate things that are different from them.

    I say, let the woman read her piece!

  8. GetOverYourselfSteven
    April 25, 2008 12:42 am


    Do you have children? If so, do you freely let them watch anything they want on TV? Do you take them to places where they could be subjected to vulgar language? If you do, you’re a terrible parent.

    If you don’t have kids, then you have no room to espouse your belief that we should just keep our kids inside and away from the likes of you.

    This author would not be permitted to do her reading anywhere else where the general public would be — e.g. a shopping mall, restaurant, etc. — so I don’t blame J-B for not allowing her to read freely in their store.

    And the George W comment? Why the heck did you pull that one out of your butt? I personally can’t stand our president, but that doesn’t mean that I’m an ultra liberal that your comments infer that you are.

  9. Still A. Fan
    April 25, 2008 5:42 am

    steven is a blithering idiot. if he knew anything about our country and/or the law (there should be an IQ requirement to read this blog) he would know what terms such as “reasonable expectations” are. it sounds like i’m repeating my last post but i guess it’s necessary – its insane logic to think that to keep your kid from hearing stuff like that you have to stay home. if you take your kid to the grocery store….there is no expectation of someone standing at a podium reading provocative poetry. if you take your kid to a chris rock concert, of course he’s going to hear that stuff. is that so hard to understand? there will be people there just buying books who dont even know who she is or what she does….they didnt go there to hear her. a public place is not the forum for that unless people know what they’re getting into. “your f’ing childs ears”? wow. way to try to make a point, genius. do you have trouble remembering if you put your socks on before your shoes?

  10. Travis
    April 25, 2008 10:32 am

    Dear Still a Fan,

    You people act like your kids are so sacred or something. They’re not. They’ll grow up to be ignorant assholes like you. Marrying people they don’t love, staying because they have nothing better to do with their lives. Boring. Banning people? Get over it Nazi’s. There is nothing special about giving birth. Even dogs can do it.

  11. pittgirl
    April 25, 2008 10:40 am

    Just a reminder: Don’t feed the trolls.

  12. deebee
    April 25, 2008 11:34 am


    I have been reading these posts for last few days. I love my erotic reading as much as the next yinzer. But I don’t want to hear it over the speakers in a bookstore. I have a teenage son who I do go to bookstores with. I’m sure he hear worse on TV and @ school but time and place people!!

    Still A Fan..I remember record stores also.

  13. Still A Fan
    April 25, 2008 5:18 pm

    i swear. banning people? did you even read the original post. you’re right, PG. my work here is done. we’re nazi’s because we asked her to use her inside voice instead of a microphone. ignorant?

    A: 57

    Q: subtract your IQ from mine

  14. Freddy
    April 28, 2008 9:36 am


  15. ultraban
    April 28, 2008 9:41 am

    And don’t forget marshmallow feet.

  16. Ms. Mon
    April 28, 2008 12:20 pm

    PittGirl, with all due respect, you are a dumb bitch. Won’t you kindly shove it up YOUR ass?


    I gotta go with the more dimensional perpective offered by Sue Kerr of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents on this one.

    Rock. On. Pitt. Grrl.

  17. jeepster
    April 30, 2008 10:29 pm

    Come on yunz guys!
    Turn off the CSI killing/thrilling, let the kiddies home alone while playing grand theft auto. Go out and buy a book, better yet read a book.

  18. Pingback: The Burgh Blog » So THERE!

  19. paperneck
    September 22, 2008 9:58 pm

    The book store is afraid Beatty will read one of her poems about “big cocks”, rough sex, or maybe even a poem about rape.

    From Beatty’s point of view it makes sense for her to be upset over the idea of someone choosing which poem she is going to read, or at what volume she can read, because so many of the poems seem react to a belief that female sexuality is repressed, or that violence against women is often a hushed subject. I doubt that Beatty would have read any of her more graphic poetry as she more than familiar with what is appropriate for a public audience (amongst other things she is the host of her own public radio broadcast). It seems like she is more offended at the assumptions being made about her, and the stores attempt at trying to control the subjects she would discuss.

    The business is of course still a business. The reason Ron Jeremy or David Sedaris can read there without strings attached is because they are much more popular than Jane Beatty is. I get this really sad feeling that Beatty is actually disappointed that a book store isn’t supporting artists. I don’t know why people fall for that trick. Places like Joseph-Beth support creative expression and local artists when it boosts their image and draws a crowd. It’s a pretense and I’m surprised she didn’t realize that before hand.