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Tattoos were once for sailors and wayfarers — exotic souvenirs of adventure and romance. Now, they’re mainstream. Walk into any college gym – any gym, anywhere – and you know.
But literary tattoos – now there’s the high frontier. And even it is becoming wildly populated. Rimbaud on the forearm. Kafka on the whole arm. Sylvia Plath across the chest. Kundera on the abdomen. A big back covered in Proust. Oh my.
We take the full tour today of the world of literary tattoos to see what’s there, and why.
Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor, editors of “The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide.”
Leigh Bush, has three literary tattoos featured in “The Word Made Flesh” — a quotation from 17th century Mexican writer Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz on her abdomen (see below), a quotation from a short story by Edgar Allen Poe on her wrist, and a short saying in the Berber language of Tifinagh on her arm. She’s a Ph.D .candidate in anthropology at Indiana University, and she writes about food for the “Earth Eats” blog.
Carey Harrison, playwright, novelist, and professor of English at Brooklyn College. His tattoo — a complete essay in German by philosopher Theodor Adorno — takes up his entire back and is featured in “The Word Made Flesh.”
Theresa Michalowski, has a tattoo (scroll down below to the bottom) of the “Serenity Prayer,” by Reinhold Niebuhr, on her leg and foot.
Listen back to On Point’s hour on the Maori origins of tattoos.
And here’s more from “The Word Made Flesh” gallery: