Wednesday, December 07, 2005

On Tattoos and Literature

Through Mark Lindner's . . .the thoughts are broken. . ., a link to an article in The Believer on the art of tattoos and its literary connections. The article tells the story of Shelley Jackson, a writer who is writing a 2,095 word story one word at a time as tattoos on various people who agree to carry one of the words. Talk about carrying a text, and indeed they will be the ones carrying the text. In fact, the story, "Skin," will not be published on paper, and only the carriers will read it. I have to admit that it made me think of the living books in Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Of course, one has to also think of Bradbury's The Illustrated Man in this kind of discussion, and the article's author, Margot Mifflin, does so. The article looks at how tattoos and body marking has been present in literature in various forms and the symbolism in various cases. The article also tells the story of tattoos from early America to today, where middle class women are actually the fastest growing tattoo demographic in America, according to Mifflin. I think what is fascinating is what the tattoos say both about the people who wear them as well as those who gaze at them. Also, what does the art itself say or signify? The article is definitely a very interesting read and worth a look.

P.S. For those who are curious, no, I do not have any tattoos, but I do find them fascinating, in large measure because of what people choose to have inscribed on their bodies, and it is an inscription, using oneself as a canvas to express something, whether whimsy or something more profound. Would I get one? I don't know if I could shock my mother (haha), though since one of my brothers already has some, I am sure the shock would be less. On a serious note, who knows. I am not one to say never.

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