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Literary tattoos and why I’ll never get one.

One of the cool things talked about at BEA during the 7x20x21 session was literary tattoos. I’ve long pondered getting a tattoo, and since I love books, what could be more fascinating than literary tattoos?

There’s a book coming out in October 2010 by HarperCollins entitled The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos From Bookworms Worldwide.

There is also a whole website dedicated to literary tattoos, Contrariwise.

Here’s a few literary tattoos that caught my eye from the website (clicking on the pics will take you to the post at Contrariwise from whence they came):

Those are just a few tattoos out of hundreds. If I were going to get a literary tattoo, then I would want something simple, like the tree in the third pic, but all the things I love about books are that they’ve changed my life perspective, and those things can’t be summed up in a graphic (for me). For example, one of the most mind blowing things I’ve ever read in a book came from Robert Hellenga’s The Sixteen Pleasures:

(The nun is talking about her life before she entered the convent. She and her husband had desparately wanted children but were unable to conceive.)

We had no children. That was a disappointment. Like Sarah — Abraham’s wife. We tried everything, doctors in Milan and in Switzerland, but nothing worked. I had to accept the fact that I was barren. That changed the direction of my life. What I wanted most was denied to me. You come up against something, a roadblock, you’re so sure of the direction you’re going in, the road you want to take, that it’s inconceivable. But a bridge has been washed out. You have to find some other way.

And now look. God has given me these children, my daughters, you see. I could never have foreseen it. Daughters in adundance. That’s what I wanted to say to you. People say that God works in mysterious ways when they really mean that life, or something in their own lives, doesn’t make any sense, but I think that’s wrong. I think it means that we can’t make any sense out of life until we give up our deepest hopes, until we stop trying to arrange everything to suit us. But once we do, or are forced to . . . That’s what’s mysterious.

I’m definitely not getting that tattooed on me, no matter how profoud it is for me.

Another book that had a big impact on me was The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. The lengths that people will and won’t and can’t go to for their marriage was very powerful to me. And even as profound as it was, I don’t know that I want something with such melancholy connotations as a tattoo.

I could go with something from Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. But as much as I loved it, haven’t circus freaks tattooed on my body isn’t quite the look I’m going for.

A lot of folks seem to go for the childhood books, but, well, those aren’t what hold meaning for me. I’m sure my parents read to me, but I don’t remember it. And the first books I do remember picking up and reading on my own (very vividly) are the Babysitter’s Club books.

So then I go back to what I really love that can be represented graphically: pinup girls. I love everything vintage, and pinup girls have been a favorite of mine for 10+ years now. Every year I buy a pinup girl calendar, and for quite a few years I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a pinup girl photo shoot (and have since found Ambitious Misfit Photography (thanks, Ti!) who I will do a photo shoot with if it’s the last thing I do).

(found here)

(found here)

But getting a pinup girl tattooed somewhere is so typical, and how is it going to look in 10 years?

One of the things you’ll see girls do who are in to vintage/rockabilly stuff is have a flower behind their ear. Taking that idea to a tattoo, my friend had a little flower tattooed behind her left ear, so you only see it when she pulls her hair back, and it’s really cute! I’d do that, but I’d just be copying my friend and that feels weird.

So that’s why I’ll probably never get a tattoo. I’ve got the idea in the back of my head that maybe one day I’ll get a tattoo, so if anything ever comes to me, I’ll do it. But until then, I’ll leave my skin the way it is.

If you were going to get a tattoo, what would you get? Have you thought about getting a literary tattoo?


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