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June 09, 2008



I knew when the idea crossed my mind that it might be kind of neat to get an Underwood typewriter tattooed on my leg that the trend was good and truly over.


I like (Bookninja) George Murray's idea - any time he gets the urge for a tattoo, he waits for ten years, and then if he still wants the tattoo he gets it. At least half of the customers shown on Miami Ink should adopt this practice.


" I guess it's all about committing to something and having as part of that commitment an abiding love for the thing. But it would work just as well for me to photocopy and laminate a favorite poem or a line from Moby-Dick or whatever and put it my wallet."

It is about committing to something, at least for me. And a photocopy wouldn't be the same. It's the permanence that makes the commitment. Most of my tattoos are passport stamps of sorts, images marking one event or another in my life in a way only intelligible to myself. I got them because I felt the need for the marks--not as fad or accessory. Four of my five tattoos are images, but the most recent is text. Yes, the dreaded literary tattoo. But it's of my own words, not someone else's. When my first novel was finished enough to start sending around to agents, I had the first line tattooed on my leg, in my handwriting. I wanted to mark my commitment to the book no matter what happened to it once it went out into the world.

Now that my agent shopped that book around for two years without success and it's tucked into a drawer, that tattoo means more to me, not less. That said, I'll be waiting for the novel I'm writing now to find a publisher AND ship to the printer before getting a tattoo of any of its lines.


But Shirley Jackson's Skin Project (http://www.ineradicablestain.com/skin-quilt.html), in which a story she wrote is tattooed on strangers, word by word. Each person carries part of the story, they'll never all be in one place at the same time ... lots of interesting aspects to the project. And it's definitely a worthwhile literary tattoo.

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