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. Karen
    April 23, 2008 9:22 am

    PittGirl, you are right. An individual’s rights only go as far as the point where they infringe upon another’s individual’s rights. While I might be interested in hearing/reading/buying such a book, I certainly don’t believe it’s anyone else’s right to thrust such material on my children. I say she should take her whining ass home and hope she finds an audience for her book on Amazon. JoBeth is trying to help a local author, and she’s spitting in their face. I think it’s time they rescind the invitation they made and find another more grateful recipient of their generosity. But, they should still let her have a ride on that microphone, as you suggested!

  2. Ant Annie
    April 23, 2008 9:25 am

    Sorry, PittGirl, you’re no dumb biotch. I totally agree. I’d tell her where she could put that microphone so the kidlets wouldn’t have to hear… There’s censorship, and then there’s common courtesy. She can write and read whatever she wants, but it doesn’t have to be broadcast for all to hear. I might enjoy a little erotica in my reading material every now and then, but I don’t have to read it so everyone around me gets to hear it.

    Maybe she’s just making a fuss to sell more books?

  3. parking chair
    April 23, 2008 9:26 am

    Are you afraid she might talk about Santonio Holmes?

    Seriously, whoever stole the Pirates ability to have a winning season also snatched away our common sense. And no, I didn’t mean “snatched” in any sort of vulgar way. I am not a poet.

    If I were the bookstore, I’d just say “oh, never mind.” It’s not like they’re hosting Walt Whitman or anything.

  4. lolo
    April 23, 2008 9:28 am

    I agree – I think she’s over-reacting and blowing things up. Is this the same poet with the weekly show “Prosody” on WYEP? Hmmm.

    Couldn’t Joseph Beth had made this and a lot of other potential ‘sensitive to young ears’ speakers more comfortable by having a room (with doors) for this kind of presentation? Or maybe after-hours readings?

  5. JP
    April 23, 2008 9:30 am

    Right on PG. What a narcissist this one is. Like not being allowed to use a microphone is censorship. Probably just tryig to drum up some controversy to move some more books

  6. BBM
    April 23, 2008 9:34 am

    The only dumb bitch is Ms. Beatty. Sadly, she’s going to get way more attention that she deserves just because she’s a whiny dumb bitch who somehow got the attention of the media.

  7. Mrs Pitsberger
    April 23, 2008 9:37 am

    I wonder if it ever occurred to her that maybe there are some BIG ears who don’t want to hear her poetry. Like my
    80-year-old grandma for instance. And maybe she should consider whether she’d want HER children/nieces/nephews/whoever to hear it. Get over it already! God, I hate stupid.

  8. Norman Huelsman
    April 23, 2008 9:38 am

    If Jan checks this blog post. She should read here: I don’t think she’ll have any censorship issues.

  9. Ms. Caroline
    April 23, 2008 9:40 am

    Aren’t all poets self-important windbags? Oh no, she went there, yes she did!

    I don’t “get” poetry. And erotic poetry? No doubt I’d understand that even less. Sounds to me like stuff taken from the bathroom wall. Or something that has Fabio on the cover.

  10. KC
    April 23, 2008 9:41 am

    Jan Beatty read some poems on WYEP back in the late 80s or early 90s that had some of the forbidden words of broadcasting in them. It was during a time when the U.S. Senate was focusing on broadcasters saying naughty words. Poor ol’ WYEP didn’t want to spend its donor’s money on attorneys, so it told Jan to cool it – and she raised the censorship flag then too.

    This is a habit with Ms. Beatty, no?

  11. Pittsburgh Tom (in NJ)
    April 23, 2008 9:49 am

    Censorship is when the government says no one can read, watch, or listen to something.

    When a dominating force in a marketplace, like walmart, uses it’s power to force changes to a book, music, or movie, that is also a form of censorship.

    A book store deciding to control what what is said inside their bookstore is their right. And the author has the right to take her book elsewhere. She doesn’t have a right to speak in that specific store so any conditions put upon her speaking is not censorship.
    Now if she wanted to stand outside the store and read aloud from the book and someone tried to stop her, then that might be a different story.

    I say, if it doesn’t hurt them financially, the bookstore should not only not let her read, but they shouldn’t even carry her book.

  12. Burgher in Maine
    April 23, 2008 10:03 am

    Jeez. If this was a publicity stunt it sure is working. She just got mentioned on one of the burgh’s most popular blogs. I know who she is now and will go and read some her poems online. Thanks Pittgirl!

  13. Judge Rufus Peckham
    April 23, 2008 10:07 am

    We are stranded in an era of the perpetually indignant, the chronically offended, where self-proclaimed victims hide behind shibboleths of political correctness, such as “censorship,” or “academic freedom,” in an attempt to justify some supposed outrage or other that they’ve manufactured. And frequently, of course, these purported injured parties don’t care a whit that the thing they are crying “censorship” over would be an affront to someone else’s sensibilities.

    I’m with you on this.

  14. Amanda
    April 23, 2008 10:08 am

    DAVID SEDARIS! I’m so there.

  15. spoon
    April 23, 2008 10:09 am

    me thinks that Jan Beatty needs to have the “Annoying Burgher” certificate sent to her.

    Just like everything else in life, if you want to do business you need to play by the rules. If you don’t like the guild lines offered then leeeeeaaaaavvvvvvve. All you’re doing is trying to drum up some attention that will backfire miserably.

    If you’re that hellbent on reading at J&B go park your butt outside and read at the top of your lungs. Just let me know when so I can come by and sit on your lap… wearing only a fig leaf… awww yeah. There’s your visual for the day.

  16. brainlint
    April 23, 2008 10:09 am

    I don’t have to take the high road…Ms. Beatty should shove the microphone up her ass. She should be thankful that the bookstore even carries her book. It is a business. The main concerns of that business is to make money. And if they think that Ms. Beatty will drive away their customers with children, then they have the choice to tell her (quietly) to shove it up her ass.

  17. Gunn Lino
    April 23, 2008 10:10 am

    PG your not the Dumb Bitch here, Ms All Too Full of Herself is!
    She’s a fucking nutcase who simply should not be allowed to read a phone book let alone her bullshit poetry.

  18. Pat
    April 23, 2008 10:14 am

    PG – completely agree. You have to wonder what the motivation would be for someone to read this stuff willingly around children so they could hear it. Pretty irresponsible.

  19. Erin
    April 23, 2008 10:19 am

    These comments, especially parking chair’s, are cracking me up. I have nothing to add except that I totally agree with you as well, PG.

  20. NoSide15212
    April 23, 2008 10:22 am

    Agree PG. Sick and tired of artists/writers/actors masquerading as would-be constitutional scholars, running the censorship flag up the pole anytime anyone objects to their broadcasting in the public square the word F*$k. You wouldn’t say it so I will: “Jan –take your book and your feigned artistic indignation and shove them both up your ass.”

  21. Mike S.
    April 23, 2008 10:30 am

    Even if she were completely excluded from the place there wouldn’t be an issue. The private bookstore has the right to exclude.

    “Cram it up your cram-hole, LeFleur [Jan Beatty]”

  22. jakc
    April 23, 2008 10:33 am

    I’m with you, Amanda. That’s really all I took away from that PG article. Does that make me a philistine?

  23. unsatisfied
    April 23, 2008 10:43 am

    maybe ms. beatty could shove that mic up her ass, then write an erotic poem about it.

    I think maybe she and cathy baker knoll need to get together — they are some crazy beeyotches!

  24. bucdaddy
    April 23, 2008 10:56 am

    Journalists in places like Cuba and China — more specifically, journalists in prisons in places like Cuba and China — could perhaps inform Ms. Beatty what censorship really is all about, and what an assmunch she is. That’s if I believed her capable of learning anything.

    Bravo, PG.

  25. Stasia
    April 23, 2008 11:04 am

    “Don’t care how
    I want it now
    Don’t care how
    I want it now”

    This does sound a bit more like a self-important’s temper tantrum than a legitimate artistic censorship concern, doesn’t it?

  26. Zsa
    April 23, 2008 11:13 am

    I agree with Mrs Pitsberger. I don’t want to be walking thru a bookstore and all of a sudden hear someone reading out loud about their lovah’s embrace or something of the like.

    I mean, if you see a sign outside that says “Ron Jeremy reading tonight”, most people KNOW who that is and will turn around & leave if they don’t want to hear it – but for someone lesser known, how are you supposed to know?

  27. John
    April 23, 2008 11:18 am

    I’m with you, PG. We need to get the wahhhhhmbulance for this self-important beyotch. Censorship = no, you can’t read your smutty poetry here, not can you keep it down so the 10 year olds reading Captain Underpants don’t go asking mommy and daddy about those naughty words they heard at the bookstore.

  28. RavishingRick
    April 23, 2008 11:29 am

    Your really smart PittGirl!!!

  29. spoon
    April 23, 2008 11:30 am

    I really hope she has a big ass with as much stuff as yinz want to shove up there.

  30. Rick
    April 23, 2008 11:31 am

    I’d let her read only if she replaced every sexual term with “donkey omelets”. Seriously…she needs to get a life and off of her high-horse.

  31. Becky
    April 23, 2008 11:35 am

    Amen..she is the stupid biotch

  32. BobM
    April 23, 2008 11:37 am

    As with the other commenters, I think Pitt Girl speaks with great wisdom.
    One can only suppose Jan Beatty created this faux controversy for the sake of some publicity. If she actually believes her claim of censorship, then she’s the “dumb bitch.”

  33. Eileen
    April 23, 2008 11:44 am

    I respect her right to be there, she has to respect my right to be there as well. I don’t want to hear that crap if I’m in there say, looking to buy a new Vera Bradley purse.

  34. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    April 23, 2008 11:47 am

    Amen PittGirl. You got it 100% right. Not a big poetry fan to begin with and this just does nothing to add to my desire to even explore it. Here’s my favorite poem. I learned it in first grade and it’s stuck with me since.

    I never saw a purple cow
    I never hope to see one
    But I can tell you any how
    I’d rather see than be one.

    The end.

  35. Brian
    April 23, 2008 11:49 am

    People such as Ms. Beatty need to learn what censorship means in much the same way most gun-toters need to examine what the Second Amendment really offers. Crying censorship is an easy way for her to blandly and non-desriptively protest against a book store that a.) gave her a forum and b.) is selling her book because she can’t really think of an actual good reason. But crying censorship is good for stirring emotions, so you know, most people don’t know what it means anyway. She needs to shut up and go away and realize that maybe when she sells as many books as David Sedaris, she can put her self-righteous, probably overrated ass in his category. I just can’t believe what an idiot she sounds like.

  36. Brian
    April 23, 2008 11:53 am

    Let me add something that makes Ms. Beatty’s comments even more frightening. This from the Trib:

    “I was trying to get inside the body, which was kind of impossible,” says Beatty, who lives in Regent Square and teaches poetry at the University of Pittsburgh.

    Greeeeat. Teaches at Pitt. I can’t believe a college professor can be this clueless. Or wait. Maybe I can. Woah, higher learning!

  37. Christina
    April 23, 2008 11:57 am

    Am I going to be the only person here who doesn’t agree with PittGirl? So be it.

    I think this entire situation is very dramatic, on both ends. It is a ridiculous thing that Joseph Beth isn’t allowing her to read whatever she wants out of her new poetry book. It’s poetry. Whatever she’s written that’s so erotic or violent is probably drenched in metaphor and isn’t entirely obvious and more than likely a child in the throes of seeking out his or her new Winnie The Pooh book wouldn’t have a clue what the lady was even talking about. I’m sure that on tv or even on the news every single day, kids are seeing more violence, sex, etc., than she can even describe in a poem.

    Jan Beatty is being a bit of a dramatic, crybaby artist who wants attention, but really, what perfomer doesn’t want attention?

    In any case, she shouldn’t have to read anything by a store that just wants watered-down selections. If the audience there wants her cut apart, censored poetry, then they probably aren’t seeking the real thing in the first place. She has the right not to read there and to be offended that they don’t want her there.

    David Sedaris can be blatantly and overtly sexual with his readings and in his personality. The only reason they allowed either him or Ron Jeremy for that matter to read in their store is because they’re relatively well-known and are going to sell books. In those cases, their morals were pretty much shattered by the promise of money.

    If this were another bigger city, would anyone care about this? No. She could march around a bookstore in Manhattan and say whatever she wants. But no, because this is a conservative, family town where things like erotic art are still frowned upon…we have entire articles in our city’s largest newspaper about them. Isn’t this all just kind of blown out of proportion? Is this really this big of a deal? Not at all. She’s reading poetry. It’s not like she’s going to be standing in front of the children’s book section having storytime with a Penthouse. But, what do I know.

  38. Sooska
    April 23, 2008 11:59 am

    She needs to meet up with Scott Paulsen’s old character JT:
    A Poetry by JT.

    “Shut up…I’m gon kill you.”

  39. Jen-nay
    April 23, 2008 12:02 pm

    Why the violence? As I’m writing this, there are 25 comments above me, and 7 of them include references to violence against Beatty. Rape with a microphone, yeah, that’s about right for someone who wants to read some poetry.

    I tried to write more, but it wouldn’t take, so here’s a link to my full response to the comments here:

    (Christina, you’re not the only one!)

  40. bucdaddy
    April 23, 2008 12:07 pm

    BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A state Senate panel rejected a bill Tuesday that would make it a crime to wear one’s pants too low, even as Cajun-country towns around Louisiana have been banning saggy pants from their streets. …

    Sen. Yvonne Dorsey said she disliked the look of baggy pants but wanted to defend the public’s right to wear their clothes as they wish.

    “When we begin to take the freedom of speech away … I think we’re doing something that’s just not right,” said Dorsey, a Democrat.

  41. bucdaddy
    April 23, 2008 12:12 pm

    Jen-Nay, I think you miss the point, which is Ms. Beatty’s misuse of the concept of censorship. It’s in the same vein as the Nazi-fication of everything.

  42. In Sewickley
    April 23, 2008 12:15 pm

    She’s not overreacting, folks. This is a book store who claims to support writers, which would mean they support the creative thinking and free thoughts writers have. Yet they want to censor what this artist does in their store.

    Technically, they have the right, yes. But, if they were to actually support writers they wouldn’t care what the content was about.

    We shouldn’t shelter children from certain topics. Maybe the store should consider holding the event in the evening or when children won’t be around if they care that much.

    My thing is this… you can’t encourage writers to be creative and then tell them they can’t be creative.

    The author should yank her book from their shelves.

    And… where will it end? Will a book on pro-choice be limited at J-B?

  43. scottie
    April 23, 2008 12:27 pm

    I’m with you, PittGirl, this woman is a pompous windbag. I write sh*t full of profanities, but would I let me 3 year old niece near it? NO. It’s not appropriate.

    There’s a difference between censorship and assuring an age-appropriate audience.

    You wouldn’t want a 6-year-old going to an NC-17 movie, and this is no different. Sheesh

  44. PAGirlinFL
    April 23, 2008 12:28 pm

    PittGirl – thank you for posting about the poet who doesn’t get reality. I was beginning to think that my adopted home was the stupidest place in the world to live. Florida legislators are currently embroiled in consideration to make ‘truck nutz’ – you know the ‘donkey omelets’ that adolesence males (and some older) hang off their trailer hitches, illegal. Hello?

    Foreclosures are out of control, taxes have skyrocketed, gas is approaching $4/gallon and these folks are offended by a couple of chunks of plastic hanging off trailer hitches….

    The only solace in life right now is a trip to the ‘burgh next week – yippee!

  45. back in the burgh
    April 23, 2008 12:29 pm

    In Sewickley, “we shouldn’t shelter children from certain topics” – really?? So my six-year-old should be able to hear all about violent sex from some women he doesn’t know? I think that’s MY call as a parent … and I don’t think I should have to leave a family bookstore because of it. If they want to have her read, have a special ‘after hours’ event for adults only. But back to the original stupid comments – they’re not censoring her. They’re carrying her book in a full and complete version. They just don’t want it broadcast through the store. If I were them I’d just pull the book completely after all of this crap.

  46. Sarah
    April 23, 2008 12:51 pm

    I absolutely agree. Not that I really would have gone before, but I absolutely wouldn’t go now. Why would I? I can go play with spoiled kids if I want to see someone cry that much about not getting their way. And at least they make it cute.

    I also agree with Mrs. Pitsberger – not that I’m “sexually repressed” or any of that crap, but it would be super awkward to be walking around there with a parent, or a child or, hmm a first date?

    Not to mention the 12 year old side of me would bust out laughing at really inappropriate times.

    Also – I agree that we shouldn’t shelter children from facts, you know, ones that aren’t necessarily DISTURBING to kids – or adults for that matter. But when the author herself describes it as an “unflinching VULGAR” book about “women who are subjected to the worst vulgarities and subjugations, and the often furious way they respond,” I don’t think she needs to be reading to the world.

    We couldn’t play it on play it on the radio or daytime tv, could we? So why should she have free reign?

  47. Jen-nay
    April 23, 2008 12:53 pm

    back in the burgh, that is your right as a parent, but poetry readings are typically held at 8:00 p.m. or later. I don’t think there is a real threat to a child. How many children are running around a book store in the South Side after 8:00?

    My understanding of In Sewickley’s comment was that “children,” as in young adults, the ages that might be out & about in the South Side in the evening, should have access to all types of art.

    Why is there so much worry about three-year-olds & poetry? Do you take your three-year-olds to bookstores all that often? I can only hope that three-year-olds who are exposed to poetry at that early an age want to read poets like Beatty when they grow up. We should all be reading more.

    Of the 45 commenters above me, how many of you have read a book of poetry in the last year?

  48. Sparky
    April 23, 2008 1:02 pm

    Jen-Nay: I have read several poetry books in the past year, and most certainly more books than you concerning civil rights and constitutional protections. So how about you scurry back to your own blog, with this piece of cheese in your mouth, and stop your ignorant and condescending tirade attacking the readers of this one.

  49. Sparky
    April 23, 2008 1:06 pm

    Oh and SNAP.

  50. Mia`
    April 23, 2008 1:27 pm

    First, Pittgirl…gotta agree with you.
    Asking her not read something with sexual content over the loud speaker is NOT censorship.

    Second, Jen-nay, no I don’t read poety, I don’t care for it. I have been known to read erotic fiction, and enjoy it. That doesn’t mean I want it read to me over the loud speaker at the book store. If she’s reading it in one corner and I am on the other side of the store and can’t hear it…no problem. Why are HER rights to express herself more important than MY rights a.) not to be forced to hear it or b.) change my shopping plans to avoid it? Why are HER rights to be creative more important than the store’s rights to not offend other customers who may not want to hear it? Especially in the overly litigious society that we live in. They could very well be saving themselves from a lawsuit.