First published in 1995, Molly Weatherfield's Carrie's Story has become a cult classic for readers of BDSM erotica. In 2006, Playboy called it "one of the 25 sexiest novels ever written." Cleis Press has just reissued Carrie's Story in a new edition introduced by Tristan Taormino. A reissue of its sequel, Safe Word, will follow in April 2013. Molly Weatherfield is a retired computer programmer who (under her real name, Pam Rosenthal) has also published several historical romances, including The Edge of Impropriety, which won a RITA award (best historical romance) from the Romance Writers of America in 2009. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, a longtime independent bookseller.
On your nightstand now:
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel, Broken Harbor by Tana French, Whip Smart by Melissa Febos, Driven by Megan Hart and The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood: Versions of the Tale in Sociocultural Context by Jack Zipes.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. But I should add that the Alcott book that in some ways affected me more deeply was a far inferior one, Rose in Bloom, which had the first charming rogue character I'd ever encountered in a book. When Charlie dies, thrown from his horse after a debauched night out on the town, I wept far into the night.
Your top five authors:
Marcel Proust, Grace Paley, David Foster Wallace, Colette and Charlotte Brontë (Villette rather than Jane Eyre).
Book you've faked reading:
When an editor asked me if I could write something on Günter Grass, I said, "Sorry, I haven't read anything but The Tin Drum." But actually I hadn't even that. I'd started it in my teens, was like "what's up with this?" and gave it up. But I was too embarrassed to say that.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Two by smart, funny women. When Katha Pollitt's memoir Learning to Drive came out, I bought copies for a gaggle of female friends and relatives as well as for my son. And I'm always trying to get people who don't read romance to read my romance-writing partner in crime, Janet Mullany, particularly her Regency chicklit series, the best and funniest of which, I think, is Mr. Bishop and the Actress.
Book you've bought for the cover:
1984 by George Orwell. The '50s Signet version with a very Ava Gardner-looking Julia in a low-cut jumpsuit. She also wears a huge button that said "Anti-Sex League" but that screamed SEX to me at 12 (as it also did to my 12-year-old future husband, who--unknown to me but practically simultaneously--went out and bought his matching copy).
Book that changed your life:
Story of O by Pauline Reage made me wonder for several decades about the power of BDSM fantasy--until I wrote the Carrie books to see what would happen if I engaged the fantasy head-on, with my intellect, sense of humor, feminist sensibility and whatever writer's voice I could muster.
'Sense of humor' isn't usually considered an aspect of BDSM erotica.
It was for Susan Sontag in her essay "The Pornographic Imagination." And it always has been for me: all that chatty hyper-awareness on the part of the narrator (who's almost always the bottom) can allow for a kind of implicit irony in the form.
Favorite line from a book:
"Well, you know or don't you kennet or haven't I told you every telling has a tailing and that's the he and the she of it." --from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. Which I don't for a minute want you to think I've read (any more than I've read The Tin Drum). But I have the wonderful Joyce Society recording of Joyce reading this passage aloud, and I can practically sing along with it, so I hope that counts.
"Various variables toted up mass and speed and English, calculating the thresholds between bounce and break, between shatter and slide and spin." --from Plowing the Dark by Richard Powers (it's about computer programming, language and lots of things that fascinate me; I reviewed it for Salon.com).
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth gave me genuine ghost-story goose-bumps that I'd love to get again from it, but somehow I don't think I would.