Book tattoos

My mom just sent me the a link to this recent article in PW about book-related tattoos and told me to blog about it.  And I learned long ago to ALWAYS listen to my mom.  Sooooooooooo.

If you could see me in person, my position on book-related tattoos would be clear, as during the summer, when I wear short sleeves, 3 of them are visible at all times.  I love them!  I think they’re pretty and some have meaning to me (some I just got the idea in my head and went for it).  In chronological order: I started with the alphabet in my favorite font, Zapfino (a literary tramp stamp, if you will).  “words, words, words” in a loop around my left wrist; do you know which play this comes from?  “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” around my right bicep from “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.  “it’s pretty, but is it Art?” on my left rib cage from “The Conundrum of the Workshops” by Rudyard KiplingAn Old English word that my mom and I got together.  And the latest, only a few months old: Jules Feiffer’s ink drawings of Rhyme and Reason on the outsides of my breasts, and on my right rib cage, Reason’s quote, “Whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer.”  Coming up in the future: a half sleeve that has nothing to do with books, and I also plan to fill in my left leg from knee to ankle with my favorite children’s picture book characters (Eloise, Mr. & Mrs. Mallard followed by Jack Kack Lack Mack Nack Ouack Pack and Quack, Grumpy Bird, something from Tim Egan, &etc &etc).  I’m working on a tattoo related to Alan Moore’s Promethea.  And there’s a few more I think about from time to time.  The only thing that ever holds me back is funds.

So yeah, I think they’re fun!  Personally, I think the best reason to get a tattoo is because you think it would be pretty–“having meaning” is good too, I think, but it is ultimately an aesthetic decision.  I get a little fussy when people talk down on tattoos that aren’t deep somehow.  There is nothing deep about the alphabet on my back.  It’s just purty, in my favorite font.  The one that my mom and I share has meaning, so I’m not saying that’s a terrible idea, just that I dislike the sentiment I hear frequently that tattoos HAVE to mean something.  That’s one of the cool things about book tattoos, because they have meaning on some level, but they’re not JUST about meaning.  If that makes any sense.  I’m rambling!  Ignore this paragraph!

The most common question I get after “did that hurt?” (which: um…….yeah!  and here’s the answer to the follow-up question, “what does it feel like?”  It feels like exactly what it is, which is a very sharp needle going into your skin over and over very quickly) is, “Don’t you think you’ll regret that someday?”  Usually said with a certain degree of smugness, as though I will suddenly realize my mistake!  and be forever grateful that FINALLY somebody pointed it out to me!  And yeah, maybe I will–although I hope to be struck down by a falling shelf of books if I ever regret inking myself with Shakespeare.  But even if I do, I hope I can remain open-minded enough to remember that these were all important to me once, and on the strength of that alone, I won’t regret it.

Another thing I like about them in general is that they keep me off the straight and narrow.  When I got the second one done (around my wrist), I knew that it would automatically disqualify me for a number of jobs–all jobs I would be miserable doing, but that I could see myself taking out of fear, confusion or a desire to please someone (a bad habit of mine).  They’re a gift from my irresponsible self, keeping my responsible self from making my life miserable.  Which is, at least somewhat, why I am a bookseller and not a–well I don’t even know what, some sort of job where you wear suits and heels and carry a Blackberry everywhere.

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2 comments so far

  1. Jacqui on

    We want pictures! Where appropriate, of course. I especially like the Hamlet quote one.

    I got my non-literary tattoo 17 years ago, purposefully somewhere I could hide it for work, etc. But I like your idea better. Lately, I am wanting two that match on the tops of my feet. I am pondering art from my own picture books, though that seems strange, somehow. Other ideas?

  2. Sarah Rettger on

    Stephanie, I love your mom. Just sayin’.


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