The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide
by Eva Talmadge & Justin Taylor
I've never considered getting a tattoo. They're fine, but never held any personal appeal... until I saw The Word Made Flesh. It's a photo essay of literary tattoos, and in addition to the fine editors who put the book together, it owes its success to the creativity and literacy of the individuals pictured within. Don't expect to see a lot of smiling faces. Most photographs are disembodied arms, legs, and other assorted body parts.
The tats pictured take all forms. Many are literary quotations, and it's quite fascinating to see the words that moved a reader so profoundly that he or she literally wanted them to become part of their selves. Other tattoos were recreations of cover art, illustrations, bookish logos, punctuation marks, and even portraits of authors.
One of the sequences that interested me most was a press release and a series of photographs from "The Skin Project." Writer Shelley Jackson has penned a 2,095-word short story entitled "Skin." It will never be published anywhere. The only place it is being printed is word by word on the bodies of volunteers. The only individuals who will ever be privileged to read the entire text are the tattooed "words." Five of them are pictured. And once the "words" die, the story will be gone. Very cool.
While the photographs are the central focus of the book (and they're nicely shot and pleasingly laid out), the text is likewise pleasing and diverse. Much of the text is made up of brief discussions of the tattoos in the bearers' own words, which are almost always interesting. The editors do a good job, as well, keeping things mixed up. I mentioned the press release earlier. At one point, a two-page short story that inspired a tattoo is printed in its entirety. Elsewhere, a man talks about his tattoo, and the writer quoted responds to being immortalized in this manner.
The pictures in this book are awesome! But after I'd done the quick flip, I went back and read every word of text. Literature is my greatest love, and I dig people who have been permanently marked by their reading. And I really dig this little book!