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7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh Paperback – August 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1edit edition (August 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140273905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140273908
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #811,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In a highly original and absorbing memoir, the short-fiction author Tractenberg struggles to explain the ways of God to man?or maybe just to himself. Each tattoo, like Catholicism's seven sacraments, leaves an indelible mark on Tractenberg, which he uses to trace his life from early rebelliousness in the 1960s, through drug addiction on New York's Lower East Side, to an attempt at atonement with parents, lovers, and himself. Tractenberg views God as a Mafia capo di tutti capi, a supreme being with a "trigger finger...as itchy as Dirty Harry's." Yet, for all its irreverence, his memoir records a serious spiritual quest?a search for answers to questions at the heart of the world's major religions: the nature of God, the cause of suffering, and the meaning of life itself. Highly recommended.?William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Each of the author's seven tattoos serves as the launching ramp for a confessional/memoir/storytelling binge that careens all over the cartographic, psychic, and emotional map. His first tattoo, inspired by the Dayaks of Borneo, leads to a trip to that remote land and to his participation in a Bornean funeral. Successive tattoos beget ruminations on his Jewishness; forays into Zen Buddhism and Catholicism; and musings on his tortured relationship with his parents, on being a junkie, a student revolutionary, and a citizen of Manhattan's counterculture netherworld, on his disastrous affairs with a series of women, and even his broken bones. Alternately insightful, funny, tragic, and revolting, 7 Tattoos is never dull. But Trachtenberg, who adopts the perspective of an amateur cultural anthropologist for his trip to Borneo, treats his own world of drug addiction, body piercing, S & M, and tattooists' conventions as one that requires no such perspective. Although it is likely to be celebrated in the urban literary world, this very strange book is just a maybe in the hinterlands. Thomas Gaughan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Peter Trachtenberg is the author of the memoir 7 TATTOOS, THE BOOK OF CALAMITIES: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning (Little Brown, August 2008), and ANOTHER INSANE DEVOTION (Da Capo, October 2012), a book about the search for a missing cat that's also an encoded exploration of love and marriage. His essays, journalism, and short fiction have been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, BOMB, TriQuarterly, O, The New York Times Travel Magazine, and A Public Space. His commentaries have been broadcast on NPR'S "All Things Considered."

Trachtenberg has taught creative writing at the New School, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the City College of New York, St. Mary's College of California, the University of Iowa Summer Writers Festival, and Ashland University. He's also taught in Bard College's Language & Thinking Program. Since 2011, he has been an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

He's the recipient of a NYFA artist's fellowship, the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction, a Whiting Writers Fellowship, a 2010 Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and a 2012 residency at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center. The Book of Calamities was given the 2009 Phi Beta Kappa Society's Ralph Waldo Emerson Award "for scholarly studies that contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity."

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on April 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
Given to me as a gift, this book sat on a shelf for more than three years. The title, cover art, and (to some extent) the blurbs led me to believe that it was about tattoo artists or skinheads or the East Village or whatever. (For the record, I do not have any tattoos and have no interest in getting one.)
I now regret not having read this memoir sooner.
This is not a book about tattoos. Rather, Trachtenberg uses his seven tattoos as a simple yet effective framework for not only his autobiographical narrative, but also his literary studies, theological musings, and cultural explorations. His story is familiar: self-destruction exacerbated by drug abuse, a love-hate bond with his parents, an inability to commit to relationships. What distinguishes this memoir from the many (tiresome) confessional accounts flooding the market are a self-mocking wit, the willingness to assume responsibility for his mistakes, and--most of all--the grace and hilarity of his prose. (I challenge anyone not to laugh aloud while reading his discourse on Christ's stigmata or his tale of attempting Zen meditation under the influence of speed.)
The breadth of his recall of literature is impressive--from James Boswell to Philip K. Dick. In one chapter, he brilliantly weaves a reading of "Lord Jim" into both an account of his travels in Borneo and a reminiscence of his affair with a Native American woman. In another, he entwines a fictional noir script (a la James M. Cain) with his tale of a writer whose stories increasingly resemble the details of their own friendship.
Equally impressive is his knowledge of religious customs; he is able to lampoon just about every faith with equal verve. ("Hell isn't even mentioned in the Torah.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
7 Tattoos is a good read for anyone who has spent sometime on the wild side and can relate to what Trachtenberg is saying, and what an amazing trip he has had becoming what we assume is a responsible adult. A little reminiscent of Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road', but not as ugly and Trachtenberg at least expressed a concience about most of his trangressions. I did an immediate re-read as I was intigued and wanted a deeper understanding. On the second pass I found myself wondering where he got the money to travel so much and was he sponging off his hard working second generation Holocost parents? The second pass also gave focus to the self indulgence present in his inner child ramblings, but what are memoirs for? It feels honest and alleviates one's own paranoia about self loathing and guilt - we all got some.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "zillaboy2002" on June 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
7 tattoos is a true rarity in the world of literature: An enjoyable and fascinating autobiography about someone most of us have never heard of. Trachtenberg uses the 7 tattoos on his body, the universal symbol of dysfunction, as a road-map into his consciousness and experiences. What emerges is not a self-indulgent man without redeeming qualities as someone else asserted, but a portrait of humanity as a whole, its ugliness and selfishness explored to the fullest. To call Trachtenberg unlikable is to call humanity unlikable. What he does so successfully is shine the light on his own life, which in turn shines it on our own. And if for no other reason than that, this is one of the most brilliant self-exporations to come along in years.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
Upon first purchasing this book, I was expecting it to enlighten me on the intricacies of tattooing. Although it didn't do this, the memoirs are some of the best I have ever read. If you are interested in tattoos -- and even if you're not, this book is a must read. It is a very touching a frank overview of a mans life which happened to involve tattoos as a form of expression. A must read for everyone!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Ford on April 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
I took some time in reading the early chapters of 7 Tattoos because Trachtenberg doesn't hook you right away. Instead he teases you with a novel method of dividing his life. The book seems to be Trachtenberg's attempt at catharsis made public for all to view. One is enticed to read more about the seamy world in which he once lived and I must admit I was interested in the book at first due to my own tattoo and a fascination with life on the edge of control. Trachtenberg certainly lived it and you get a few exciting details. However the book is not about tattoos,drugs, sex, or even the wild life. Instead it is about the introspective suffering and doubt with which we all struggle. Indiviuality is an odd thing, we seek and desire it, yet even as we seek we attain it. 7 Tattoos is more about the desire that we all have to believe that our most painful emotions are out of the ordinary; he tries to convince us that his pain is the result of deep trauma when in actuality he suffers from the pain we all share, that of being alone no matter how many friends we have. He captures wonderfully the agony which we all put ourselves through in trying to rectify our own individuality with that of those around us. A very good read, if you give it time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading Trachtenberg's stories. There's the assumption that people get tattoos drunk one night or on a whim. It was nice to read about where, why and more about his tattoos. I'd highly recommend this if you have an interest in tattoo art or just a really good personal story
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