I was listening to a podcast on my way back from dropping the boys at school on a new book detailing the cultural phenomenon of ‘literary tattoos’ – people who feel the need to have inked on some part of their body the name, picture, or quote from their favorite author or poet. While no one, to my knowledge, has the name Ursula emblazoned on their buttocks, the idea of a literary tattoo intrigues me – and since listening to the podcast, I find myself asking people whether they would consider getting such a thing, and if so, who would they chose?…
In the book, The Word Made Flesh by Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor (the book which was discussed in the podcast) there are pictures of people with quotes (and illustrations) from work by Herman Melville, Franz Kafka, William Blake and Samuel Beckett (just to name a few). Each of the tattoos represent a whole story in and of themselves about how and why a person felt compelled to engrave the words on their flesh. Pretty cool really.
For my part, I am way too squeamish to get any kind of tattoo (and let’s face it, too worried about what it would look like on my saggy eighty year old body in years to come) but if I was to consider a literary tattoo, and if I restricted it to books and authors I love (look, if I got on to poetry this blog post would never end!), there are three most likely contenders:
They are (in no particular order):
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
One of my favorite books, I would nonetheless have difficulty putting “Mistah Kurtz – he dead” or “The horror! The horror!” anywhere on my body. Even some of his more cheery quotes are still major downers so I doubt I will ever have a tattoo with such gems as “the wilderness found him out early, and had taken vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude–and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core.”
Besides where would such a quote go? Back? shoulder? stomach?!
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights
Now a quote from this book would be pretty amazing- though perhaps not original enough to enter the ranks of cool-dom. I could see myself with a discrete Catherine or Heathcliff quote, perhaps on an ankle…What do you think – “That is not my Heathcliff. I shall love mine yet; and take him with me: he’s in my soul” or perhaps, “I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!” But then again, I’m not sure what my husband would say to either of those…
David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life
Now this book is my all time favorite book and perhaps it is the one I would be most likely to use for a literary tattoo. One quote which would be wonderful, is this:
“What else should our lives be but a continual series of beginnings, of painful settings out into the unknown, pushing off from the edges of consciousness into the mystery of what we have not yet become, except in dreams that blow in from out there bearing the fragrance of islands we have not yet sighted in our waking hours”. Not bad, eh?
Well, I can’t say I am rushing out to a tattoo parlor to have anything inked on any region of my body, but still the concept is an interesting one. So tell me, have any of you got a literary tattoo? If so, who, what, why and where? If not, would you ever consider having one and if so, which quote or author would you chose?