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Permanent ink

According to the Guardian, publisher Black Ocean is giving a lifetime subscription to the books they publish to anyone who gets a tattoo inspired by one of them.  I’m too straitlaced for tattoos in general, but the idea at least of literary tattoos pleases me.  Unlike, say, a tattoo of a cartoon character (why do people do that?) or the name of a person you love (and better hope you love forever, because not everyone’s going to be able to pull off a “wino forever” tattoo).  By the time you’re of likely tattooing age, you’ve probably got some serious literary passions.  And it’s a testament to the permanence of certain literary enthusiasms in our lives that this Christmas saw three members of my family exchanging the latest in a series they’d all started reading back in the 70s (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant).

I know that at least some DGLM clients have inspired tattooing among their fans (Jacqueline Carey and Richelle Mead in particular spring to mind), and it’s something that I can get behind, even if I can’t imagine getting one myself.  But I still like to think about what literary tattoo I might get, if I woke up one day the sort of person who’d want a tattoo.  The problem is most of my favorites don’t lend themselves well to such things.  Looking back at my “great books” list from August 2009, not one of them seems to lend itself to tattooing—Mrs Dalloway’s flowers?  The light from Gatsby?  A 1984 tattoo probably actually makes sense, but I think that might send a more complicated message than “Wasn’t George Orwell great?”  If I look back to childhood for something that’s of lasting significance (so I’d know I wouldn’t hate it in a week), I’m just not sure a Laura Ingalls Wilder bonnet is something I’m going to ask someone to ink onto my flesh and something Dr. Seuss is probably just going to look like a bad idea I had while drunk.  So maybe it’s for the best that I’m not the tattoo type.

What about you?  Do any of you have literary tattoos?  If you could get any literary reference tattoo, what would it be?

8 Responses to Permanent ink

  1. EEV says:

    Hum, maybe a Lord of the Rings tattoo? That’d be nice. Or perhaps a dragon tattoo? Nah. I don’t know. I do have tattoos, one of them is my husband’s name (in arab, as we liked the curvy lines and it was more an art concept than a name), and a tattooed wedding ring with an elfic word that in a funny way resembles the year we got married (it wasn’t planned!).
    But for me tattoos must have a emotional significance. Maybe if a book “changed my life”, I could think about it. But it had to be that special. Wait! Can you imagine people with “Eat Pray Love” tattooed in their bellies? Wow…

  2. Bridget says:

    I have a tattoo of a seagull because I’m a huge Chekhov fan. Most people just assume I like seagulls, though :)

  3. Rachael says:

    I have “Viva Hate” inked on my upper left arm, in reference to Morrissey’s first solo album. I realize that is musical, but it’s Morrissey’s poetic lyrics that attract me so I consider it quasi-literary :) I have two other tattoos (non-literary) and if I get future ones I thinking they should be words.

  4. Rachael says:

    I have “Viva Hate” inked on my upper left arm, in reference to Morrissey’s first solo album. I realize that is musical, but it’s Morrissey’s poetic lyrics that attract me so I consider it quasi-literary :) I have two other tattoos (non-literary) and if I get future ones I’m thinking they should be words.

  5. Ryan Field says:

    Although many of my characters have tattoos, I don’t think I’ll be getting one soon. Sounds a little too painful to me.

    But I do get letters from readers all the time who have literary tattoos, so they tell me, that range from a large blue eye for, THE BLUEST EYE, to a chair with wings from the cover of THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST. When people fall in love with a certain book or character, they stick with it.

  6. Donna Hole says:

    I followed the links from here b/c yeah, I can see getting a Literary tatoo. People get dragons, swords, mages, fairy’s, books . . the list goes on. .

    If you’re going to get a tatoo of a sword, why not Aragorn’s, or Richard Rahl’s Sword of Truth, or perhaps even Loric’s Krill on the cover of The Wounded Land.

    People have taken Black Ocean’s challenge and gotten tatt’s in honor of their favorite novel covers. One guy got a tat of the antlers from The Deer book. I didn’t follow all the links, but I did click on the titles. I could see me getting the black crow on the front of – hmm, I think the title was Closed Windows. These are books of poetry, and I can see the poems inspiring someone to get some portion of the covers in a tatoo.

    Of course, I’m a fan of tatoo’s, have a couple myself :)

    ………..dhole

  7. Kendra says:

    Your mention of the light from Gatsby made me think that the lamp post from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe might be cool. The Chronicles were favorites during childhood and the only childhood favorites that have endured throughout my life.

  8. Lauren says:

    Some great ideas here! Donna, that’s a good point. Why go generic when you can do an homage to something that matters to you?

    Ryan, it’s interested to hear that many of your characters are tattooed, but you yourself are not. Is there any reason for that? Does it just fit with what you’re writing or do something to help explain who these characters are?

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