Robyn Pennacchia is a writer, feminist, noted style icon, and the creator and hostess of the quaint Chicago reading series, The Sunday Night Sex Show.

BG: with so many quality reading series out there, what is
sunday night sex show bringing to the table? what words of wisdom can it offer to the literary conversation?

RP: Well, I think we’re really the only sex positive non-fiction reading in town, so there’s that. I feel like the big difference, however, is our audience, which isn’t the typical Chicago Lit Scene audience at all. We’re like the red-headed, populistic step-child of Chicago readings, really, and I’d say that 90% of our audience isn’t even comprised of writers. Hell, half our our readers aren’t “writers.” It’s just like, people who want to be entertained and hear a funny story about the time someone met some dude who tried to pee on them. It somehow ends up being the most diverse crowd you’re ever going to see anywhere in Chicago - we have the lit community, sure, but then we have the feminist community, and the queer community, the politically radical, the sexually radical, comedians, musicians, actors, hipsters, squares, bros, etc. And no one gives a shit, and everyone gets along and it’s amazing. It’s easy to bond with people who are different from you in that sort of confessional environment, where everyone is standing around telling secrets.

I think that’s really what we’re bringing to the table as far as wisdom goes - because now, I think, a lot of other reading series - like Tim Jones-Yelvington’s “Uncalled-For” series, which focuses on experimental queer lit- are looking at what they can do to bring in different communities. I mean, not everyone who buys a book is a writer.

BG: when the world ends in 2012, as the mayans predicted, and the next species takes over the earth and digs up America 1,000 years from now, what sexual objects / books / positions will they be restoring, reviving, and immortalizing, and why?

RP: Oh god, it will probably be Heidi Montag’s new sex tape that’s coming out. That would be just our luck if that were the only thing to survive. I’d hope, however, that they’d find things like “On Our Backs,” the complete works of Betty Dodson, Susie Bright, Rachel Kramer Bussell and the Hitachi Magic Wand. I think they’ll probably figure out the positions on their own. One would hope, anyway.

BG: what is the last book you borrowed and never returned? who'd you steal it from and why didn't you give it back?

RP: Haruki Marukami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicles. I borrowed it from this guy at the coffee shop I used to hang out with, and I just never felt like reading it for some reason (Terrible, I know. Whatever. Judge me.), and then he moved. I still have it and I still have not read it.

BG: name the five best books you've read that you'd bet your ass nobody else has?

RP: -Charm Never Fails by Antoinette Donnelly. I collect old etiquette books, and this one is one of my favorites, if only for the title.

- My Life, by Isadora Duncan.

- The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy - It’s basically this giant book that gives you a little bit of information on everything you should probably know, and it was my favorite thing ever when I was growing up. I used to read it cover to cover to ensure that I had something to add to any given conversation, because I was a smart ass like that.

- Now, Voyager by Olive Higgins Prouty - I’ve barely met anyone who has seen the movie (which everyone should, because it’s awesome, and Bette Davis is amazing. You will sob for hours.), so I doubt too many people around my age have read the book. Prouty was actually a way popular novelist in her day, until a rather ungrateful Sylvia Plath effectively destroyed her career by blatantly basing the character of Philomena Guinea from The Bell Jar on her. Then everyone was all afraid that she was (gasp!) a lesbian, and stopped buying her books.

- Madame de Stael, Novelist: The Emergence of the Artist as Woman by Madelyn Cutworth. I mean, someone must have read it because I bought it used, but I can’t imagine too many people are thrilled by reading a random feminist analysis of a totally obscure figure. That being said, Madame de Stael was pretty much one of the most bad ass ladies in the history of ever. She held salons in Paris, took many lovers and told Napoleon to go screw. We totally would have been BFFs.

BG: who is your favorite historical figure, past or present, and how have they influenced your literary journey?

RP: I have so many! I get really fascinated with random people all the time. Lately I’ve been obsessed with Judy Henske, this folk singer from the 50’s and 60’s that for some reason I’d never heard of until recently. She was/is this really bad ass lady with an incredible, Bessie Smith-esque voice who told stories and basically did stand-up comedy between songs. She was the basis, actually, for the character of Annie Hall. I’m really into the idea of combining mediums like that right now. I grew up putting all my eggs into the baskets of singing and acting and then got into writing later on, and now I’m working on figuring out a way to combine all of those things in a non musical-theater type of way. Why the fuck not, right?

BG: BONUS QUESTION: Give us a six song playlist that tells the story of your life.

RP: Nobody Loves Me But My Mother (And She Could Be Jivin’ Too) - BB King
Habanera from Carmen - Georges Bizet
Femme Fatale - The Velvet Underground
The Mary Tyler Moore Theme Song
Double Dare Ya
- Bikini Kill
Second Skin - The Gits


  1. Awesome interview with one of my all-time favorite people.

    Uncalled-for Readings Chicago (which took its name from Uncalled for Readings New York) is co-hosted and founded by the super awesome Megan Milks.