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The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide Paperback – October 12, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide is a guide to the emerging subculture of literary tattoos—a collection of more than 150 full-color photographs of human epidermis indelibly adorned with quotations and illustrations from Dickinson to Pynchon, from Shakespeare to Plath. With beloved lines of verse, literary portraits, and illustrations—and statements from the bearers on their tattoos' history and the personal significance of the chosen literary work—The Word Made Flesh is part collection of photographs and part literary anthology written on skin.

About the Author

Eva Talmadge's fiction has appeared in The New York Tyrant, The Agriculture Reader, New Orleans Review, and Subtropics, among other publications. Her short story "The Cranes" was cited as Notable Nonrequired Reading in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009 (Dave Eggers, ed.).



Justin Taylor is the author of the story collection Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever and the novel The Gospel of Anarchy. He lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061997404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061997402
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #637,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
Nicely bound on heavy stock, this book is like a pirate's chest filled with treasure. The familiar tattoos of rebellious outliers have gone mainstream, body ink enjoying a renaissance of art and literature, a combination of art and language embellishing the flesh of devotees. The author's describe their selections as eclectic, much like a mix tape. Shelley Jackson's "Mortal Work of Art: Skin" is as unconventional as it is fascinating: each participant is given one word, part of an animate project. Each person becomes a "word". Brought together, these words might tell a story, or might not. As words die, the story changes, but "the author will make every effort to attend the funeral of her words."

Text accompanying the images explains the choice of one author or another, the fondness of phrase or portrait, lines from the work of Flannery O'Connor to William Blake. The entirety of Carey Harrison's broad back is inscribed with the text of Theodore Adorno's essay, "For Marcel Proust", a paean to genius. A personal favorite, two provocative lines on Alyssa Carver's arm that parallel the veins under her skin: "a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth." In her own words, "This sentence just kills me every time I read it."

As striking as the marriage of literature and ink are the stories that accompany these extraordinary photographs, the choice of writers, the extension of art to flesh. Katherine Barthelme wears the words "Born Dancin'" on her inner arm, this selection made more astonishing by the story by Donald Barthelme, "The Baby". A child willfully tears the pages from books, her punishment commensurate isolation in her room. As the years of potential isolation accrue, a father is faced with an ethical dilemma and the necessity of a practical solution.
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Format: Paperback
What I Can Tell You:
I love looking at tattoos, so when this book come up for review through Harper Collins, I was excited to get it. Right before I received it in the mail a girlfriend mentioned the book to me. She wanted to get it, she was putting it in her Christmas list. It seems that book lovers have taken to putting the written word on their bodies. Whether it is a word, a phrase, a paragraph or sometimes an entire page from a book, readers are memorializing their favorites permanently.

The book is full of color photos of some amazing work right down to the picture and font used. There is a great assortment and some very inspiring pieces. Literally Tattoos has totally made me rethink my personal tattoo thoughts. Since I was 18 I have wanted a tattoo and at 25 actually went to a tattoo artists with picture in hand. Fortunately the guys wife went into labor and the tat never happened. Loved it at the time, but now I feel it would have been a mistake.

I really enjoyed looking at the 100 full color photos and even thinking about the books which inspired some pieces. My to read list has just gotten larger.

Check out the Tumblr Tattoo Lit page for photos and descriptions if interested.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved the idea of this book and the cover really sold me on purchasing this as a gift for a friend's birthday. While I have not read the book in it's entirety, I did flip through each page to see the tattoos. Each page layout is very unique but the quality of tattoos featured didn't really strike me as worthy of print. The visual artistry didn't exactly live up to the ideals behind the tattoo concepts to me but "Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder" I guess.
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