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.”

KTHXBAI.





119 Comments


  1. Puma
    April 23, 2008 1:31 pm

    What’s the cost of this book? Unless it’s free, Ms. Beatty is censoring me from reading it by charging for it. Now, if she’s giving copies away, then she can stand on the corner of Grant & Sixth and enlighten me all day. Otherwise, I say CENSORSHIP!

    I know how to stretch the meaning of a word too.



  2. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    April 23, 2008 1:39 pm

    As a private business, the bookstore can set the terms of a promotional event. I don’t see this as them not supporting writers. They are offering to give her a forum to promote her book. As the private business owner, they do have the right to condition that promotion. She can either accept the terms of the promotional contract offer, make a counter offer or decline. Her book is still available for sale. It’s not like this is a public library. I might have more sympathy for the author in that situation.

    In my opinion, I truly believe (as is my right) that this was just a giant publicity stunt on the part of the author. As the saying goes, all publicity, even bad, is good publicity.



  3. Jen-nay
    April 23, 2008 1:39 pm

    Why is a dissident voice that is asking questions of two previous commenters labeled a “tirade?” My question about how many poetry readers visit this blog was not intended to be condescending, only to point out that it seems like everyone is judging Beatty’s work without reading it, or reading similar contemporary poetry.

    I will not scurry away from the big, bad regulars at The Burgh Blog.

    Can’t we have a discussion? Can’t yinz acknowledge that there’s another side to the debate? It’s National Poetry Month, for crying out loud!



  4. pittgirl
    April 23, 2008 1:45 pm

    Jen-nay,

    I am truly glad that you’ve offered a dissenting opinion because if we were all on here just going, DUMB BITCH! that would get boring.

    So I’ve got a question for you. Jo-Beth isn’t saying she has to censor herself. They said she can read anything she damn well pleases, just that they don’t want to pipe it throughout the store so as not to offend other paying customers. Rather to just let her read to the people that want to hear it. Those people choosing to sit right in front of her.

    Please explain to me how that is censorship.



  5. Susan
    April 23, 2008 2:13 pm

    Joseph Beth is a business. They can make whatever rules they want for their store. If an author doesn’t want to follow their rules, they don’t get to read inside the store. End of story, move on.

    Plus, Ms. Beatty may be more businesswoman than she wants us to think — after all, “any publicity is good publicity.” Poet or not, both JB AND she want to sell books.



  6. Sparky
    April 23, 2008 2:17 pm

    Your “tirade” is condescending because: (1) you imply that the readers of this blog are not well read in poetry, and that if they were enlightened, like yourself, they might have a different opinion on the matter (2) you appear to be sarcastically utilizing pittsburghese to indicate that the reader (and me in particular) probably speak fluent Pittsburghese and therefore could not possibly be as cultured as yourself.
    Dialogue is great…and I encourage great dialogue because from such comes truth, but the genesis of productive discourse is not condescension.

    That said, JennyJenJen, would this be censorship if J’s resigned her to a private room for the reading?



  7. Mitch Cumsteen
    April 23, 2008 2:21 pm

    Jen-nay,

    Isn’t writing “can’t yinz acknowledge there’s another side to the debate” really, really condescending? Isn’t that really just a more subtle approach than Christina used in saying we’re all backwards and ignert since we don’t trip all over ourselves to listen to and support poety that is sexual and violent?



  8. Jen-nay
    April 23, 2008 2:28 pm

    I don’t think that the alternative of reading without the speaker system is censorship. Joseph-Beth’s first reaction to select the poems for her read was censorship; she wasn’t able to read what she wanted to. She was “suppressed” and certain poems “deleted” from her reading list (quotes because those are words used in the Merriam Webster definition of “censoring”). It’s a valid opinion to think that she should accept the alternative & stop throwing around the issue of censorship. As a poet & someone who has given public readings (not on the same level as Beatty, but nonetheless), I don’t know how quickly I’d drop it either.

    Beatty has done a lot of good for the Pittsburgh community. Check out her CV on her web site.

    http://www.janbeatty.com/JanBeattyCV.pdf

    She has worked with prisoners at Western Penitentiary and community members at the Wood St. Commons bridge building project. She has worked with primary and secondary school age students at the University of Pittsburgh’s Young Writer’s Institute and the International Poetry Forums Poets in Person program. She taught at The Ellis School. I’m guessing she knows how to interact in many different situations. A professional writer.



  9. Jen-nay
    April 23, 2008 2:35 pm

    Just saw the follow up comments on my use of “yinz.” I love Pittsburghese & use it frequently. I can’t prove that to you, but it wasn’t meant to be condescending. I actually find nothing ignorant about our dialect. It’s part of who we are.



  10. joey
    April 23, 2008 2:35 pm

    Jen-nay:

    Your post was condecending as hell…not all of us here are yinzers, y’know. And even for those of us that are yinzers, just because they might not read poetry doesn’t deny them the ability to opine on the topic. Your logic is similar to those that say “You were never in the military, so you can’t opine on the war…”

    And I gave your blog a hit to read your diatribe. It puts your posts here in context to know that you are a big Beatty fan, and are not looking at the issue impartially. Because if you look at it impartially, this is what it sounds like:

    “Wahhh…I’m getting censored because I can’t recite one of my graphically sexual/violent poems in a store over a microphone…wahhh.”

    P.S: Boycotting Jo-Beth is called “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” If you want to do that, knock yourself out.



  11. joey
    April 23, 2008 2:43 pm

    Joseph-Beth’s first reaction to select the poems for her read was censorship; she wasn’t able to read what she wanted to.
    ——-
    No, Jen-nay…censorship would be if Jo-Beth wouldn’t stock her book. But drama sells books, right?



  12. Sparky
    April 23, 2008 2:48 pm

    Jen-nay–I believe you when you say you did not intend to be condescending…but your posts have appeared pedantic at best(which is something to consider in the future)–and i certainly never should have written that you should go home–not my place…nonetheless, i feel like you are grasping at the straw on a hula skirt with this one.



  13. Dave in Pgh.
    April 23, 2008 2:54 pm

    It’s not about censorship. It’s about money.

    I worked in a book shop for ten years and we had our share of controversial moments like this. In the end, it was always about the bottom line. Store management is primarily concerned with how much money an event like a poetry reading will bring into the store — or how much money it will drive away.

    To businesses, we are all just dollar signs. In Jan Beatty’s case, the bookseller saw her as a dollar sign with a minus sign in front.



  14. Erin
    April 23, 2008 2:57 pm

    I didn’t get the sense that anyone here is “judging Beatty’s work” whatsoever. Her community service work has nothing to do with this debate. Whether or not commenters on this blog read poetry also has nothing to do with this debate. This is about the definition of censorship.



  15. BagitTagit
    April 23, 2008 2:58 pm

    Why the F-ing? Why in front of the kid? All ya gotta do is say “earmuffs” to him, and you can say “Fuck, shit, bitch.”

    Cock. Balls.

    I’m just trying to make a point, Frank. You don’t have to celebrate it.



  16. Puma
    April 23, 2008 3:10 pm

    OK, I’d like to ask a simple question: What’s does the poet hope to gain by broadcasting this, that she can’t achieve through a simple non-broadcasted reading?

    Maybe I just don’t understand, but I am trying… What is gained from having to explain to a 5 year old what they just heard, or, to apologize to my 78 year old grandmother what was just broadcast over the speaker? What thought-provoking message do you want to convey to these particular people?

    I can understand her wanting to be heard, but JB is providing that, and they’re ALSO giving me a choice as to whether I want to hear this.

    So what gives? Why is this so important that this is fitting material for everyone?



  17. Puma
    April 23, 2008 3:12 pm

    BagitTagit: Well said, well said.



  18. Amanda
    April 23, 2008 3:20 pm

    Brian, she’s actually a professor at Carlow. The Trib got it wrong.



  19. JP
    April 23, 2008 3:38 pm

    I take great offense at the use of yinz, in the future please be more cognizant of the many yunzers who also read this blog



  20. JP
    April 23, 2008 3:48 pm

    BTW Jen-nay Joseph-Beth selecting the poems for this women to read is about as close to censorship(as it relates to the First Amendment which is what’s relevant here, not a dictionary definition) as KFC refusing to sell hamburgers. It’s a book store not a publicly owned library



  21. Susan
    April 23, 2008 3:52 pm

    Dave in Pgh got it exactly right. If you look at it from the store’s point of view, you realize that they must ultimately do what is in their best long-term interest. I think they really came up with a great compromise, which shouldn’t offend anyone.



  22. Scott
    April 23, 2008 4:28 pm

    Well said, PittGirl.



  23. Dave
    April 23, 2008 5:06 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with you.



  24. Sooska
    April 23, 2008 5:23 pm

    Guess Jen-nay doesn’t like MY free speech to say anything I want, wherever I want. Only HER free speech.

    Never mind that a corporation or owner has no obligation to FREE SPEECH in their PRIVATE business. They can do essentially whatever the hell they wish. I doubt free speech ideals apply here. Beatty’s so-called acts of charity are irrelevant to this discussion (condecension, over simplification and attempts to divert the attention are symptoms of weak arguments.) Generosity does not automatically make one a valuable artist, engineer, athlete or street sweeper.

    Don’t shop there if you dont like it. Let her go test out her poetry FREE SPEECH on a street corner dahntahn and see how far you get.



  25. James Foreman
    April 23, 2008 5:32 pm

    I can’t believe people are even arguing about this – it’s obviously not censorship.

    But even so, I think we know PittGirl’s position on the smoking ban now, eh?



  26. Dawn
    April 23, 2008 5:33 pm

    It took me all day to formulate a response to this mess. I can honestly say, for once in my life, I’m just about “book dramaed” out for the day!

    Here’s the news: This isn’t a case of censorship. No one is telling her she can’t publish or distribute her poetry. No one is telling her that she can’t read her poetry. No one is taking away her right to find appropriate venues in which to read said poetry. JB, as a private proprietor, has every right to be selective (based on content, and what the foresee their profit to be based on any author reading invitation they extend).

    Consider: You own a bookstore geared toward YA and children’s books. An author who has written both YA novels and erotica comes out with a new book of erotica, but you would like him/her to read a popular YA novel you sell. You invite them to read at your store. Would you not consider it insane if this author then comes in and starts reading the erotica simply because it’s his/her latest book? It’s common sense.

    As an author trying to sell poetry, you would think that she would be happy to get her work heard in any way possible (the poetry market is notoriously difficult to succeed in), and focus her racier readings on appropriate locations/gatherings where it will be greeted with more enthusiasm and personal profit. There’s nothing wrong with her reading her poetry there without a microphone at 8:00 in the evening.

    It’s easy to yell “censorship” when dealing with genres that aren’t socially embraced openly, and were this a case where she organized the event in a location she paid for (or owned), and someone ran up and pulled the plug in the middle of her reading, I might see it differently. And as for the David Sedaris problem, while he may be racy, he also has some very public appropriate work to read, and he seems to have mastered the skill of “right place, right audience” — something Ms. Beatty should take into consideration.

    As for an apology… I’d settle for a free copy of that book for making me think about this all day. :)

    *See PG, I told you it wouldn’t be “harsh.” :)



  27. JP
    April 23, 2008 5:38 pm

    Smoking ban is related to public health, not an issue of private property rights.



  28. Mike S.
    April 23, 2008 5:56 pm

    Christina,

    1) Just because kids are exposed to violence doesn’t mean Beatty should have a right to do the same. The store [and parents] should be the ultimate decider. In addition, just because it may be “drenched in metaphor” doesn’t make it less of an issue.

    2) Being a “crybaby artist” doesn’t give them the right to speak on private property in a manner unwanted by it’s owners. Sure, she has the right to be offended, but so does the store.

    3) Sorry Pittsburgh isn’t liberal enough for you. If you want to be force fed material, move to NYC; you have that right. However, I stand by the store to allow or disallow any poetry it chooses, regardless of it’s economic worth.

    Jen-Nay

    1) Whatever your intention, your comment on poetic understanding implies a lack of knowledge of the matter.

    2) Again, the store has the right to restrain readings in any way it wants, or exclude her altogether. This liberalistic view of the freedom of speech in private establishments is nothing more than a flawed fascist belief.

    3) I agree with you on one point. Children aren’t likely to be on the South Side after 8pm. However, the store has the right to exclude for any reason or no reason at all (assuming its not discriminatory). If you would like a place with limited rights to exclusion, I’m near positive NJ has limited the rights of private establishments to exclude patrons.

    4) Your best argument is that the store generally promotes creative writing. It appears they have gone back on their general viewpoint of acceptance of all types of work. That is a shame. A place that opens itself up to public discourse is a treasured commodity in the world.

    Concluding: Ms. Beatty should know that she has every right to read her poetry aloud in the middle of Market Square. But when it comes to the private enterprise, sorry. I’m not about to agree and say that based on the store’s past acceptance, that they are required to permit her to speak.



  29. TrolleyRider
    April 23, 2008 5:58 pm

    Here’s an idea. Why doesn’t Beatty take the proceeds from this or one of her past books and open a bookstore. Here’s an even better idea…open the bookstore on the Hill to help with the revitalization.

    Then she can read whatever she wants in a store where she has a right to set the rules. Until then, if you want to sell books in someone else’s store you have to be willing to do it under their rules.



  30. PittCheMBA
    April 23, 2008 6:04 pm

    I wonder if there is a poem about AssHat and his infamous shower pic?



  31. bucdaddy
    April 23, 2008 6:37 pm

    I still want to know when showing your buttcrack in public became a free-speech issue (see No. 40).



  32. Ferngrower
    April 23, 2008 6:37 pm

    There is no such thing as “bad publicity” especially if you are trying to sell a poetry book. Jan is no dummy.



  33. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    April 23, 2008 7:03 pm

    My name is AssHat and I stand in my shower
    Naked as a jay-bird, pretty like a flower
    A friend to the ladies, I gots the power
    I’m the future of the Steelers, just ask old coach Cowher

    Ok, not much of a poet here, but I tried.



  34. Lukey
    April 23, 2008 7:14 pm

    I agree with PitGirl, Now can we all move forward?



  35. returningBurgher
    April 23, 2008 7:16 pm

    you nailed it. if I owned the shop, I’d retract my offer. they can’t do that much business from this woman. tell her to stick it.



  36. Steeler_tom
    April 23, 2008 7:17 pm

    Ok, ok,…. I was patronizing there a bit, (I just wanted a drink after skimming thru all those comments)But seriously I do agree with you 100%. Ms. Beatty appears to be a bit high maintenance and a couple french fries short of a happy meal.

    Can we all have a drink now?



  37. Pensgirl
    April 23, 2008 8:06 pm

    Bucdaddy, it became a free speech issue in Cohen vs. California, a Vietnam-War-era case where a guy wearing “Fuck the Draft” on his jacket was arrested. He argued free speech and ultimately won. “Speech,” in the Constitutional sense, has extended to non-verbal, non-written actions (like flipping someone off) and to other visual media (art, for example). It’s sort of a stretch to extend it to how people wear their clothes, but it’s not entirely out of nowhere. It’s also worth noting, Mr. Cohen could still be kicked out of a mall for wearing the same jacket.

    I would just like to add to the overall discussion – even if you accept the premise that Jo-Beth is “censoring” Ms. Beatty there’s still nothing wrong with it. In that regard, everyone who sets parameters around a speaker is “censoring”…but that doesn’t make it bad. Even if they do it for no reason, that still doesn’t make it bad.



  38. Shibori
    April 23, 2008 8:20 pm

    “The author should yank her book from their shelves.”

    Yeah, that would show them. Except for the fact that she’s presumably having this reading to sell more books.

    I’m a little surprised to hear that big bookstores pipe their open readings over the loudspeaker to begin with. Is that typical? As a regular bookstore customer, I’d find that pretty annoying if I was there to shop and not for the reading.

    You know, the other day, a woman on the EBA was reading a book called “Thong on Fire: An Urban Erotic Tale.” (Want a laugh? Look it up on Amazon.) I couldn’t help but chuckle at the idea that such a thing was even published, but obviously it is making money for someone. I wouldn’t think of refusing to go to a bookstore that sold it, or one that held a reading of it in a private space where you could choose to be “exposed” or not, but I certainly wouldn’t go back to a bookstore presenting an open reading over the loudspeaker.

    Perhaps while she’s there, Ms. Beatty should pick up a book on the 1st Amendment and familiarize herself with the legal definition of censorship.



  39. Dee
    April 23, 2008 8:45 pm

    Right on Pitt Girl!



  40. Still A. Fan
    April 24, 2008 5:59 am

    PG nailed this one. she’s dead on. it seems like every time i’m at the mall, some group of 15 year olds walks past us (8 year old girl in tow) and says something obnoxious that she can hear….i stop them every time and let them know i didnt appreciate it and they USUALLY seem to be genuinely sorry. what is this woman’s problem? you wanna sell your book? conform.



  41. NoSide15212
    April 24, 2008 7:46 am

    As an early proponent of “violence against Beatty,” (Jen-nay) I would like to provide further clarification: I was being metaphorical, much like some of Ms. Beatty’s “poetry.” Metaphor: A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action TO WHICH IT IS NOT LITERALLY APPLICABLE. Sheesh….glad I got that all straightened out before my mum found out.

    I’m kinda lukewarm on Ms. Beatty’s work. I prefer the non-metaphorical, actual fucking found in Bukowski.



  42. LisaC
    April 24, 2008 8:50 am

    You’re right. Of course you’re right! And maybe she SHOULD hold her breath! ;)



  43. Amanda
    April 24, 2008 9:14 am

    I’ve been thinking about this and though I haven’t read every one of these comments above, I don’t think anyone has raised the point that maybe Jan knows very well that this isn’t really “censorship”–but what she has created is a lot of free publicity for her reading. Whereas most of us would never have heard about Jan’s upcoming reading, we are all now very aware of the reading and Jan’s writing. Sure, that doesn’t mean we are all going to run out to hear her erotic poetry, but there is a good chance that because of this controversy there will be at least twice as many people in the audience than there would have been sans crybaby fit. From a PR standpoint, it is rather genius. You know what they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity.



  44. Invisi-Gal
    April 24, 2008 9:43 am

    Invis-Gal must surmise 2 things from this post:

    1. Ms.Beatty must not have children.If she does, chances are they will not be invited over to my house, Lord knows what might come out of the mouth of her spawn.

    2. Ms.Beatty , angry woman as is she, must understand that common courtesy supercedes her ambitous wish to scar listeners at book signings.

    These all add up to a massive case of bad taste.



  45. justretiredguy
    April 24, 2008 11:36 am

    Just to add my two cents, restating what many others here have said. A private citizen may limit any activity on their property. This is not censorship, and if the bookstore is selling the book then they ARE promoting the author, just not the way the author wants. Boo-hoo.

    On a personal note, there hasn’t been a decent poem written since Rudyard Kipling died.



  46. Lee
    April 24, 2008 12:56 pm

    I am a day or two behind your posts and for that, I humbly prostate myself and ask for forgiveness.
    Let me just lift a Yuengling to you in support. I refuse to watch certain shows on TV because they are censored, and censorship is one step away from controlling that was seen in Nazi Germany.
    This is not censorship. This is respect. They did not say don’t read. The store was trying to find a way to accommodate all of their customers and while I have never been to this bookstore, I can venture to guess that this bookstore does what most stores do: They put adult material in places that children won’t look at them. You don’t see a Sesame Street Magazine (I don’t actually know if that exists) next to Hustler or Jugs. Those materials are elevated our of their ready eyesight.
    This store is doing the same thing only with the spoken word. Is she a windbag? nah…she is stupid. I will say it. She is stupid. And I am tired of stupid people dictating this world. Remove her from the gene pool and from the world and we will all be better.
    BTW, I know they suck, and I hate it, but I can’t help but root for the Buccos. And I die a little each night when I check ESPN and see that they lost. It is a shame that the AAA Indianapolis Indians and the AA Altoona Curve play better and are far more entertaining to watch. This reminds me of a few years ago when the Baby Pens were better than the Pens…only difference, the Pens were never on the cusp of setting a NHL record for consecutive losing seasons. So with that Yuengling that I raised to you, I finish it off, get another one and let my tears just roll…



  47. Sofa King
    April 24, 2008 1:56 pm

    While I agree with Amanda and several of the other readers above that this is little more than a shrewd publicity stunt by Ms. Beatty, it does raise some interesting issues with respect to censorship and what exactly is obscenity.

    In the U.S., the Miller Test is often used to differentiate between material that is deemed as obscene and not obscene. Part of the Miller Test is the SLAPS test (Serious Literary, Artistic, Political, Scientific) that states if a potentially obscene work lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific merit, then it may be deemed obscene. Since art is highly subjective, how exactly do we determine what has artistic merit? If I write a performance art piece about violently raping a high school girl, is it obscene? If I state that the entire piece is a metaphor for the mistreatment of the nature at the hands of capitalism, is it then art? Artists often speak in metaphor to leave their art “open to interpretation,” but then cry foul when one interprets their work as obscene, when they need to understand that the very status of one of their works as a piece of art is subordinate to the overarching moral ideals of the community in which the work is presented.

    That being said, what this comes down to is really about personal freedom. Ms. Beatty has the freedom to express herself as she sees fit, but those around her also have the freedom to filter out material they find objectionable. Additionally, they have the right to go about their business without having material they deem objectionable forced upon them. To that end, I think that Joseph-Beth handled this extremely well, as they offered reasonable accommodations that provided the artist with a forum to express herself while insulating their more sensitive customers from potentially objectionable material. By doing this, they have more-or-less avoided getting a wrap as an “artist unfriendly” institution, which could hinder their likelihood of attracting writers like Sedaris, and they have avoided potential loss of business by customers who would be offended by Beatty’s work.

    Sorry for the long comment…bored at work…



  48. Jane
    April 24, 2008 2:57 pm

    So there’s been a tremendous amount of attention paid to protecting fragile patrons who do not want to hear Beatty’s work. Hmm. And so for those people who do want to hear her recite her art, hear her voice her creative self, I guess we just say “too bad”?

    Sure, a fan of hers could go see her at another store. Unless that store also puts restraints on her readings. And I guess a fan could just buy her book and assume there is no chance to hear the artist live. Unless we get to a place where what’s included in the book is edited and limited as well. Or maybe the book shouldn’t be sold at all.

    Ever heard of a slippery slope? We’re at it.

    One can argue the definition of the word “censorship” all day long. But what is happening is a poet, an artist, is being prevented from expressing her craft. And those people who might have hopes of hearing her won’t get to.

    It’s not just about Beatty, it’s about a larger issue of people deciding for other people what is too sexual or violent. I guess above all I am saddened that because Beatty would not alter her creative voice to meet someone else’s standards, she doesn’t get to use her voice at all.



  49. pittgirl
    April 24, 2008 3:14 pm

    But Jane, I don’t think you’re understanding this. Jo-Beth has said that Ms. Beatty can read anything she wishes to at their store. They’ve just asked her to speak only to her audience that is there to see her, not have the “vulgar” material broadcast over the sound system to other patrons who are NOT there for Ms. Beatty.

    She’s not being prevented from expressing her craft at all. They’ve told her she can express it all she wants to her audience. She’s refusing and she’s calling it censorship. The only reason she doesn’t get to “use her voice” is because she’s choosing not to.

    Seems to me her fans have no one to blame but her.



  50. Pirogie Kid
    April 24, 2008 3:16 pm

    Jane they just do not want her to use a microphone, curious as to how you arrive at not getting to use her voice from that fact?