Tattoos and Text

They say a picture says a thousand words but, for the literary fans who like prove their dedication by getting tattoos devoted to their favourite texts, you better off going with something more quick, pithy and evocative. Check out this link where  Buzzfeed did a feature on the 20 Awesome Literary Tattoos if you’d like to see some examples of saying more with less text . It went viral last week (this is apparently a good thing now, as opposed to requiring hopitalisation and isolation) and contains some really amazingly ornate displays of inked-up ink, such as this tattoo representing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby.

Literary tattoos aren’t new but according to one expert in the area, Eva Talmadge, they are taking a while to catch up. When she and Justin Taylor were looking for submissions to “The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide”, a pictorial guide to the emerging subculture of literary tattoos they found that those who got inked were more likely to read it in ink. “There are many personal anecdotes shared in “The Word Made Flesh,” but not a single tattoo’s origin story mentions words first read on a Kindle, iPhone or Nook – at least none we’ve seen yet.”

The tattoos mentioned in both the book and the blog are all by big important names, it must be said. Plenty of Kurt Vonnegut and Shakespeare. There’s an obvious American bias, with Kerouac, Ginsberg and Salinger showing up, and people complaining about the absences of Twain and Hemingway in the comments.

Despite the apparent popularity of Twilight tattoos, they are inexplicably absent from the list – including this one that I hope never sits in front of me on public transport. Just imagine those eyes all the way through your early morning commute.  Looking at you. Sparkling.

I thought he only had eyes for Bella?

Incidentally, the most common Twilight script to get tattooed on to your skin – according to the rigorous empirical research I conducted (and by that I mean googling for images related to Twilight tattoo) – is “and the lion fell in love with the lamb” rendered in various scripts. Here’s hoping that quotes on what seems to be cross-species affection are still as recognisable in 20 years. Also, as someone who raised in a Catholic country, I always associate the lion with St Mark and the lamb with Jesus, and that was where my head went first on seeing the quote. Just sayin’.

So, what book or phrase would inspire you to commit the ink to your skin forever?

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