Tattooed Authors & Tattoo-Inspired Fiction
12:36 PM
Many thanks to all of you who sent in the link to Flavorwire's "Literary Ink: Famous Authors & Their Tattoos." It's a wonderful piece on the stories behind the tattoos of ten writers and also tattoo quotes from their books, like this one below by punk poet, novelist, & feminist writer Kathy Acker. She wrote in Empire of the Senseless:

The tattoo is primal parent to the visual arts. Beginning as abstract maps of spiritual vision, records of the 'other' world, tattoos were originally icons of power and mystery designating realms beyond normal land-dwellers' experience... In decadent phases, the tattoo became associated with the criminal -- literally the outlaw -- and the power of the tattoo became intertwined with the power of those who chose to live beyond the norms of society.
As Flavorwire notes, she dedicated the book to her tattooist.

Also check the tattoos of China Mieville, Elizabeth Hand, Harry Crews, John Irving, Jonathan Lethem, Kevin Wilson, Patti Smith, Philip K. Dick, Rick Moody, Stephen Elliott, and Shelley Jackson. Jackson is well known in the tattoo community for her "Skin" project, "a 2095-word story published exclusively in tattoos, one word at a time, on the skin of volunteers."

The article inspired me to re-post some great tattoo-related fiction that I recommended in 2009. Perfect summer reading.

* Until I Find You by John Irving is an 800-page tome that follows the wild life of a tattoo artist's son and their search to find his "ink addict" father. It took me a while to get used to reading about many of the "fictional" characters who are real tattooists living today but overall it was a gripping read of a tattoo Odyssey.

* The Tattoo Artist: A Novel by Jill Ciment is another great work of fiction that explores the life of a New York artist who is marooned in the South Pacific and eventually becomes an revered tattooist among the Tu'un'uu people at the turn of the century. It then flashes forward, 30 years later, when she returns as a heavily tattooed woman to New York.

* The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall follows a young man in the early 1900s as he learns the craft of tattooing in his small English seaside resort town (with a horrid  apprenticeship) and later as he makes his way to tattoo Mecca, Coney Island, NY, where he finds love and the canvas of his most bizarre works.

* Dorothy Parker's Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos Kim Addonizio and Cheryl Dumesnil curate fiction, poetry and personal essays that pay homage to tattoos.

And of course, there's Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man," a collection of short stories that are told through the images that come to life on one drifter's skin -- from stranded astronauts to robotic clones. We did a special tribute to the book in this post last June, with an excerpt and video.

Happy reading!

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