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7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh Paperback – August 1, 1998
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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.
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.
Top customer reviews
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. The closest thing you find is Sheol, a dusty gray underworld that's as inclusive as the Hard Rock Cafe and, I'm sure, as dreary: Anyone can get in; everyone will.") Some might find his mockery of religion blasphemous, but his skewering seems far more fond than venomous.
Both "Kirkus Reviews" and a customer's post on this Web site mock this book as an "exercise in self-indulgence." But isn't that the very definition of any memoir? Other readers might wonder: who is this guy; why is his life so interesting that I should bother reading about it? But we don't enjoy reading about Clarissa Dalloway or Stephen Dedalus because they have fascinating or unusual lives. Instead, like good fiction, Trachtenberg's memoir succeeds because he takes the oft-old tale of decline and recovery and turns it into a clever, coherent, captivating narrative.