Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Word Made Flesh edited by Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor

The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos From Bookworms Worldwideedited by Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor

There’s a certain loveliness to words inked on the body, and a tattoo with a great font will likely grab my attention before an image. All three of my tattoos are black text — though two are in Sanskrit and therefore unreadable to most people — and sometimes I find myself noticing fonts and thinking, “I should match a tattoo with this lettering.” Strangely, it had never occurred to me until recently to have a literary-themed tattoo. Despite my trade, unless it’s words from my own work, I tend to think of lyrics first. That said, The Word Made Flesh will certainly inspire anyone who loves both reading and tattoos to start thinking about what words mean enough to make permanent. I’ve never read Ulysses (I know, I know), but there’s something great about having the words “Yes, I said. Yes I will yes,” written somewhere on one’s body.

Filled with photos and personal stories, The Word Made Flesh has not only direct quotes, but tattoos that involve portraiture, illustrations and even simple punctuation marks. There are enough variations on typewriter-style fonts alone to make me start considering new projects. Some of the images are typewriters themselves, and it takes me back to learning to type on one that weighed more than I did.

I like the sexy librarian, the Dewey decimal system numbers, the complete text of “For Marcel Proust” by Theodore Adrorno transcribed across one man’s back (as is the case with Carey Harrison from Brooklyn).

Not all the tattoos are gems — I have to admit, the Twilight sleeves and Harry Potter logo neck tattoo made me roll my eyes a bit, but I suppose I’m the last person who should be judging intense preoccupations. Anything that sounded too much like an uninspired high school senior quote, I wondered how much personal meaning the words really had to the tattoo recipient. Sure, “To thine ownself be true” comes from Shakespeare, but it’s sort of like the literary version of picking flash art from the parlor wall.

Though this book is not at all heavy reading, I certainly recommend it as thinking material. Is it worth the $15 cover price? I don’t know — that depends on your love of tattoos more than it does literature, I think. Perhaps it’s more of a book you buy as a gift for others. Still, it’s always interesting to hear the stories behind why people choose to decorate their bodies in the way that they do, though I imagine that for any living writer, seeing their words as tattoos must be both bizarre and flattering.

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#49/ 52

Full disclosure: Harper Perennial sent me this book. I thank them for including me on their list of book blogger contacts, and I will continue to be fair with my reviews.

This review is part of Pajiba’s Cannonball Read challenge, in which participants attempt to read and review 52 books over the course of one year. The challenge ends October 31, 2010.

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