Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Want a Literary Tattoo?

I've often toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo ... more so now that everyone else seems to have one. A nice rose on the bum. A butterfly on the shoulder. A circle of barbed wire round an ankle.

But now, on The Guardian blog, Shirley Dent (who boasts a William Blake tattoo on her shoulder) has opened up a whole world of new possibilities! She links to a couple of websites that have some really great bookish designs (see here and here).

I will spend some time thinking about what literary tattoo I would choose ... and meanwhile open the question to you.

I know there are some pretty good tattoo artists in town (didn't the delicious Anthony Bourdain get his Ouroboros tattoo done here?). Which would you butterflied-flowerified-skullandcrossboned people recommend?

Incidentally, I remember a very interesting academic paper given at a literary conference several years ago at which the author/poet Albert Wendt talked about the Samoan tatau (tattoo) as a form of literature!

Postcript (2/8/08) :

Even more literary tats at the Gawker.


Leon Wing said...

I'd probably get one of Alasdair Gray's drawings on my back, or chest, etc.

(I nearly got a piercing once! - not telling where!)

bibliobibuli said...

haha leon since you're not telling one must guess. painful!

would one have to pay copyright on a tattoo of an illustration? could enforcement officers seize your arm (or whatever)as evidence?

Anonymous said...

Everyone wants to heave read, but no one reads anymore. It's about the tattoos, the movies, the sculptures, the collections, the bookshelves, the desks.. but it's not about the books any more.

Do we really not care about content any more ?

bibliobibuli said...

such a misery you are! this is a very tabloid literary blog this morning and unashamedly so. should you want serious content, go hit any of the sites in the sidebar.

a tattoo on your bum might cheer you up. think about it.

Ted Mahsun said...

I would like a literary tattoo on my bum! Preferably one of Thomas Pynchon as he appears in the Simpsons! Unfortunately the missus won't let me!

bibliobibuli said...

i haven't seen that episode - that's brilliant!

lil ms d said...


beautiful but tak sakit ka?!

Chet said...

How about temporary (rub-on) tattoos that don't hurt, and so that we don't get stuck with a particular one but can change as and when we feel like it?

bibliobibuli said...

someone manufacture some literary ones 'em please. i'd buy!

Abdullah said...

I'd probably get wolf tattoo on my back... of Belgarion from David Eddings' Belgariad...That would be wicked!


Jordan said...

a tattoo on your bum might cheer you up. think about it.

Quote of the week. Love it.

Anyway, I think every tattoo tells a story. Mine certainly do. Mind you, the stories can be short and boring, but they're stories nonetheless.

Chet said...

So, what's your story, Jordan? Tell, lah.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHA I agree with Jordan that your response to the embittered Mr./Ms. Anonymous is a masterpiece, Sharon.

But this blog isn't *just* a tabloid blog -- it covers serious issues too. That it's *capable* of being tabloid when it wants to be is what keeps some of us coming back, Annoynymous!

I used to think I wanted Gandhi's spinning wheel -- a symbol of peaceful resistance -- on my shoulderblade. But yeah, chicken about the pain. As for literary tattoos -- the tiger from the Life of Pi is a good one. I also love the Little Prince tattoo above -- just the idea of *tattooing* the Little Prince, such a great conflation of aesthetics/registers! Makes me think about tattooing Wombles, or Moomintrolls, or Matilda on my bum!

-- Preeta

Gette said...

would one have to pay copyright on a tattoo of an illustration?

A general rule is that it's always nice to try and get permission... although with famous/popular illustrations, "everybody" uses it willy-nilly and "nobody" gets into trouble. Unless you're ripping off someone else's custom designed tattoo.

If it's something that permanent, I recommend you find yourself a good tattooist and have him custom design something for you. It'll cost extra but I think it's worth the money if he won't ever put the same tattoo on someone else.

I can talk long and windy about tattoos, so if you wanna know more, you know where to find me. ;-)

Chet said...

>> I can talk long and windy about tattoos, so if you wanna know more, you know where to find me. ;-)

Thus speaks the tattoo'd lass from Kuching.

Yusuf/Martin said...

As a Muslim of course it is Haram for me to have a tattoo, but that aside if I had got a literary tattoo before my reversion to Islam it may have been -
Jack Kerouac's On the Road tattooed on my feet,
Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being
across my expanding girth
JP Satre's Being and Nothingness
the knuckles of each hand
Benjamin Hoff's The Tao of Poo
quess where!

bibliobibuli said...

abu has tons of tattoos!! haha

(he ran away to singapore when he was a schoolboy and tried to join the british army - they wouldn't sign him up but tattooed him generously)

animah said...

Is "My Little Pony" literary?

Like Preeta, I'd love the Life of Pi tiger. I'd like him posed ready to spring over one shoulder. If I need to be fierce, I'd bare a shoulder. Ha Ha Ha!

animah said...

Would Aslan of Narnia be considered literary?

He'd be on the other shoulder. He would reflect calm dignity.

Jordan said...

Well, I have nine tattoos. When I was 19 I got my name tattooed on my right arm, mostly because it was the cheapest tattoo I could get and also because it was either that or an eagle, anchor, naked woman, or Chinese writing that could end up meaning something very different from what the tattoo artist (an off-duty firefighter who did the tattoos at his house) told me. Turned out to be a good choice, considering I would later convert to Islam and face some pressure to adopt an Arabic name. I've got a permanent reminder of who I am.

My second tattoo was a yin-yang symbol on my right shoulder. I was thinking lots of deep thoughts at the time about the duality inherent in everything. Still do.

All my other tattoos are just little dots, in various spots on my abdomen. But they're the ones with the best story. I had just been diagnosed with cancer and was at the hospital to get 'lined up' for radiation therapy. The nurses drew all sorts of lines on my abdomen. I said to one of them, "Hey, the radiotherapy is going to be a couple of months from now. Won't these marker lines fade by then?
If you're doing this so you'll know where to aim the beams, how will you know at that time?"

The nurse who had been drawing the lines put down the marker and held up a long needle with a little squirt of black ink at the tip. "That," she said, "is why we're going to give you tattoos."

And that's exactly what she did: seven little dots, a map the radiotherapy technicians would later use to line me up just right under the big radiation machine, to shrink the tumour in one of my retroperitoneal lymph nodes.

They may just be little dots, but I'm quite fond of those seven little tattoos. Even if I someday get the other two removed, I think I'll keep those seven dots. Besides, while it is haram to get a tattoo, those of us who got them before conversion to Islam are not necessarily encouraged to get them removed (I've read you can even see a few tattooed Muslims performing the Hajj). I've heard good arguments from both sides, but for now those little dots are staying put.

animah said...

Cookie Monster on my tummy. He'd expand accordingly.

s.nizam said...

Speaking of Moomintroll and his ilk, I really wouldn't mind getting a tattoo of Little My or a few Hattifatteners inscribed on my back, that is, if it wasn't so painful – let alone permanent.

I mean, I don't think I'd want my Little My to look all shrivelled up and saggy by the time I reach my twilight years (if I'm lucky enough to get there).

Anonymous said...

Sharon, that trying-to-join-the-British-army anecdote might make a capital short story, if you feel it's fair game.

Animah, you'd have to take care to bare the correct shoulder every time; you don't want to be exuding calm dignity when trying to fend off robbers, for instance. Or do you? Hmm. Expanding cookie monster on tummy is brilliant, anyway. I like the idea of taking *advantage* of the body's tendency to expand (or shrivel)!

If the backs of one's ears were not so sensitive, wouldn't those be a good place for Hattifatteners? Does anyone have tattoos on the backs of their ears?

-- PS

bibliobibuli said...

i have so many abu stories, preeta, he's a real walter mitty character. here's a piece about him being a legend in his own time.

bibliobibuli said...

i've so enjoyed this thread, really have laughed a lot today.

Anonymous said...

nice underwear :)

Anonymous said...

I have 'the road is life' tattooed on my wrist.
remainder to always be awake, be alive and be on the road that makes my life.
helps during the bad shit too.