Passions and Provocations

Alive and Thinking in Cyberspace: Pam's take on just about everything


Worst Reason Ever to Ban a Book (and a mini-contest)

The more I think about the stupid and evil reasons people demand that this or that book be removed from this or that list or shelf (not to speak of burned), the more steamed I get, and the more convinced that I’ve chosen the right book to read from at the El Cerrito Library’s Banned Book Read-a-Thon (see my events page for details).

And the reason this book was challenged, imo worst reason ever? (Not that there’s ever a good reason to keep people from reading books.) That it’s “a real downer.”

And so I’m having a little contest. What book do you think it was?

DON’T POST ANSWERS AS COMMENTS. Instead, send your guesses to Pam at PamRosenthal dot com (put the word DOWNER in the subject line). And you’ll get any of my books, autographed (well, except the eBook of The Bookseller’s Daughter, which, now that I think of it, happens to take place in the forbidden book trade). And a little chocolate.

So which book do you think it was? Which book did the Alabama Textbook Committee, in 1983, think oughtn’t be in the schools because it was “a real downer?”

Deadline, Tuesday Sept 23, 6 PM PST (since the reading begins at 7)

Let me know.


Readings Coming Up: Banned Books and More

At the next reading, coming up quite soon, I’ll be part of an interesting and diverse lineup of local and independent authors, publishers, and librarians selling our books and talking a little about them.

But as to what we’ll be reading — that comes from another corpus. Because next week is Banned Books Week, the book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read, when libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events.

The 2014 celebration will be held September 21-27. And I’ve been invited to participate in the Banned Books Read-a-Thon at the El Cerrito Library next Tuesday night, September 23rd at 7pm. Brenda Knight and Peg Conley, also from Cleis Press and Viva Editions, will be there, and I’m looking forward to meeting Stephanie McCoy, whom I already know from her deliciously atmospheric novel, Sweet as Cane, as well as the rest of the authors and publishers.

And, of course, I’m looking forward to what everybody’s going to choose to read. We’ve been asked to commit to protecting our First Amendment by reading from a favorite, classic or child’s book that’s been challenged in schools, bookstores, or libraries. Which (happily and also sadly) gives us a long list of terrific stuff to choose from.

I’ve already made my choice. A particularly wonderful and important book that, imo, has been challenged for the single most absurd and dispiriting reason ever.

Curious? Come on out to the El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito, CA, 7PM, Tuesday, Sept 23 (over 18 only).

But wait! There’s more! You can also come and hear me read at the San Francisco Women’s Building, at 6PM October 18. The event’s called UnderCover Reads, Tales from Outriders, OutWriters, and Outliers. It’s part of San Francisco’s giant LitQuake celebration, and you can find out more about it here.

And (after I’ve been so quiet for so long) still more: the Leather, Lace, & Lust event I read at last Aug 30 went so well that we’ve decided to make it a series. Next reading, December 13. Stay tuned for more info.


More Leather. More Lace. More Lust

Because you can never have enough… here’s a Who’s Who (besides me, as Molly Weatherfield) of those who’ll be reading and/or performing at this fun event this Saturday night in San Francisco.

Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, is a best-selling, award-winning author of seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing.

Mistress Lorelei Powers is a well-known bi poly sadist and Domme. She is the author of several BDSM classics, including On Display, The Mistress Manual, and Charm School for Sissy Maids.

Blake C. Aarens is an author, poet, screenwriter, playwright, and a Black Girl Nerd.

Jean Marie Stine is the author of a number of pioneering works of erotica published in the late 1960 and early 1970s, beginning with Season of the Witch in 1968, which was filmed as the motion picture Synapse. Her erotic short stories and novelettes have been collected as Trans-sexual: Fiction for Gender Queers.

A.M. Davis is a poet, artist and novelist who lives in Oakland, California. Her first novel, You Were Always Waiting For This Moment to Arise, as well as her first poetry collection, Six Lifetimes of Love, will be published in late 2014.

M.Christian is a recognized master of erotica with more than 400 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica and many others.

While as for all the other significant W’s:

What: Leather, Lace, and Lust: An Evening of Erotic Storytelling and Sexual Merriment

Where: The Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission Street, SF 94110

When: Saturday, August 30, doors open 6, event starts 7

and What it’ll cost: $10




Leather, Lace, and Lust

That’s the name of the event — subtitled “An Evening of Erotic Storytelling and Sexual Merriment” — that I’m going to be reading at (as Molly Weatherfield), this August 30.

It looks like big fun. Hope to see you there.

Other important stats:

Where: The Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission Street, SF 94110
When: Saturday, August 30, doors open 6, event starts 7
Cost: $10

For more information (including capsule bios of all the readers), go to



Yeah, I thought that would get your attention, from Pam Rosenthal Erotic Writer and all. But actually, it’s also the title of a current favorite poem of mine, by the Sufi poet Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. And on my birthday, in a small seaside town in Turkey, I want to share it… especially with those of you who’ve been patiently waiting for more books, and those of you who’ve been so supportive during these years.

Learn the alchemy true human beings
know; the moment you accept what

troubles you’ve been given, the door
will open. Welcome difficulty

as a familiar comrade. Joke with
torment brought by the Friend.

Sorrows are the rags of old clothes
and jackets that serve to cover,

then are taken off. That undressing,
and the naked body underneath, is

the sweetness that comes after grief.


Flying High, Whirling like a Dervish

What a lovely surprise. Michael and I were 30,000 feet up in the air (on our way to Istanbul) when I got an email from the fabulous Susie Bright, congratulating me for Carrie’s Story winning a 2014 Audie, for Best Audiobook of the Year in the Erotica Category (2014 being the first time that category has even existed).

AND, as Susie points out on Facebook, “This is the FIRST recognition, ever, of [the] erotic literature genre in ‘Audie’ history.” Not to speak of “the first time an erotic writer/work/actor has been given a mainstream, across-the-board literary award of ANY kind for its merit.”

Consider that for a moment.  As I am (for the first time actually). In our hotel lobby in Cappadocia, where after almost a week of soaking in Turkish art, scenery, and food, Susie’s words are finally sinking into my overworked sensorium.

Mainstream. Literary. Merit. Gosh.

I might still be 30,000 feet above the ground.



Look what book made this best-of list in, and in some very distinguished company — that’s Rose Lerner’s Sweet Disorder lolling beneath and some other fantastic stuff on the list).


Nice blurb in the slideshow, too — he calls it “His Girl Friday” as a spy novel set in the Regency. Which was definitely what I was going for.



Old and New and Audibly Cool

How about that? The Audio Publishers Association (APA) has announced finalists for its 2014 Audie Awards competition, the only awards program in the United States devoted entirely to honoring spoken word entertainment in 29 categories.

And yes, the spoken version of my erotic novel Carrie’s Story has been nominated for an Audie in the brand spanking new-this-year erotica category.

Ouch, sorry for the awful “spanking” pun. Anyhow, it’s a thrill, and not bad for a book that first hit print in 1995.

And here’s more about the award, including a list of all the nominees:




The Shame of Victimhood

We finally saw 12 Years a Slave last week.

And yes, it’s stunning. Both in its “sober beauty” and in the powerful wallop it packs, it’s stunning in the sense that it renders you speechless — and fills me with admiration for the professional movie reviewers who had to digest and render account of the experience on deadline. I know I couldn’t have done so, though I can urge you to see this movie if you haven’t. Even if (as we did) you’ve been putting it off because you know it’ll be painful.

It will be painful, and I’m guessing it will remain so in your memory, perhaps as it has in mine. But for me, anyway, it wasn’t painful in the way of trauma that shuts off thought and inquiry. Not only have the images lingered, but they’ve raised questions, first sending me back to Solomon Northup’s original 1853 narrative, and then forward to a gazillion movie reviews and articles, to see how other viewers took it in, and whether they understood certain scenes as I did.

Which is why I’m writing about it here — to try to think through my questions some more. And — if you have seen it — to check in with you and see what you made of, in particular, the movie’s closing scene, of Solomon Northup’s reunion with his wife and (now) grown children, that Slate’s critic Dana Stevens rightly called “soul-rending,” and “the unhappiest happy ending” she’d ever seen, “a moment that makes you weep not just for this one man who found his way back to freedom, but for all those men and women who never knew it in the first place.”

All of which is true and eloquently put, if impossible to imagine without reference to Chiwetel Ejiofor’s face, emotions passing over it in agonized, complicated sequence. But which doesn’t account for what he says, which is to apologize to his family through his tears, and which I found deeply mysterious.

Apologize for what, I wondered? There’s no such apology in the memoir. And surely (as Northup’s wife hastens to say) no apology is necessary, most especially from some one so unambiguously victimized. Is it because Northrup nonetheless feels he ought to have understood this own vulnerability? That it was vain, self-regarding, simply foolish, to have let his guard down? That not only he but also his family have suffered for his hubris?

Is there something about the sight of his children, grown up without him? Is it all of the above, in some inextricable combination?

Or is it perhaps that there’s a kind of shame that adheres to suffering, even the most undeserved suffering? I’m not even exactly sure what I mean by this last, but it’s the pole to which my thoughts continue to gravitate, that seems to me to sum up all the other possibilities. The isolation of the feeling.

And does this have anything to do with director Steve McQueen’s last movie, called Shame?

I’d be grateful to hear what you think.


More about Longbourn, and Why I’m Claiming it for Romance

When I fall in love — with a book, an idea, and of course a person — I want to think hard about the object of my passion. Which is another reason why I love to write (because it’s the best way to get to know the how and the why and the he and the she of your passions). And maybe why I don’t write more often (cause how often does a person truly fall in love?)

And why I had such a wonderful time recently, writing at length about Longbourn, Jo Baker’s spectacular retelling of Pride and Prejudice. The post went up today, at Noah Berlatsky’s very smart blog of cultural commentary, The Hooded Utilitarian. And why I’m hoping you’ll come over and let me know what you think.

I call it “I’ll Take Romance: Reading Longbourn,” because it’s an investigation of this literary historical novel as a very very good romance novel — which is ultimately how I read it. Passionately, can’t-put-it-down-until-I-get-to-the-omg-it-better-be-a-happy-endingly. I’m curious what others think and how they read it. So do come read and share.

While as for why Noah calls his blog “The Hooded Utilitarian,” your guess is as good as mine. But I’m grateful for his permission to write my heart out.