Friday, 12 November 2010

Literary tattoos

I've edited newsletters, I've edited articles and reports. I've edited stories and poems.

But last week was the first time I ever edited a human body. 

To be fair, the tattoo was yet to be applied and I was only really being consulted on font size, but I noticed a grammatic error (it was a quote which had been cut down a bit, so the ends didn't quite fit together) and some dodgy punctuation. 

And, yes, it was one of my colleagues in the library - what have I been saying all along about librarians and dark underbellies (or in this case, two fairly symmetrical dark sides)?  You never know what lurks beneath the practical cardigan, stretch pants and sensible shoes. None of these pictures are of the tattoo in question, by the way.

It turns out literary tattoos are quite the thing. Not content with adorning their bodies with a rose/butterfly/names of soon-to-be-ex-lover/full-colour death metal scenario, today's bibliophiles, poet-fanciers and epigrammarians are wearing their favourite phrases, passages and even book covers close to their hearts...and other organs. 

I blame Robbie Williams.

It reminds me of the lines from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: 

The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
moves on nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

More literary tattoos here: Huffington Post and here: Contrariwise and in the Guardian Books Blog but, for scale and variety check out the whole passages, illustrations etc at Yuppie Punk.

So you know what I'm going to ask, don't you?  What lines or phrase from a book or poem do you love so much that you would write them not in stone, but in your own skin?


  1. Oh, my. Now that is a question not to answer in permanent marker pen!

    I always loved this line from Othello: Pish! Noses, ears and lips.

    Emm...maybe not. I'll have to give this some thought. LOL.

  2. A bit of Larkin, possibly. I wonder if any particular font is better from the wrinkles point of view....

    As to cardigans, stretch pants and sensible shoes, that wasn't a look I went for.

  3. Maybe 'Keep Calm and Carry On' on my forehead?

    And I'll have you know I've never worn stretch pants in my life :o)

  4. Oh, the tweed skirts and sensible shoes...and as for the women!

    Frankly, academic libraries used to harbour the real eccentrics. Although, as with many professions, the in-house training and management mantras have ensured a more homogeneous bunch, today. The emphasis is more on 'branding' than tattooing, but the end result is rarely worth looking at.

  5. Ellie - Hmmm. Not the Shakespeare quote that leaps to mind in this context - you could have some King Lear on your bum: 'Blow winds and crack your cheeks...'

    Dave - That was my very first thought! In large friendly letters on your back?

    Christine & Karen - I knew I'd get a rise out of someone for my stereotypical librarian description. The tattooee (what a great word!) was in fact a hip & cool young man... but everyone's stretch pants days will come, Karen... and I can't believe you could work in a library without sensible shoes, Christine!

    I'm still thinking. Something from Hamlet on my belly? 'Tubby or not tubby?'

  6. A quote from Iago: I am not what I am. Only, I think it would have to be changed to, I arm not what I arm, in the circumstances.

  7. Good one, Fran.

    Just found this from American poet Paul Engle: "held together by the delicate, tough skin of words...."

  8. Literary tattoos are dangerous. You could walk in there and say, 'I want a sentence with a semi-colon', and they might hear, 'I want a semi-sentence in my colon.' Good thing there are editors around to prevent this thing from happening...

  9. I like the idea of King Lear on the bum...
    I'd have

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  10. TimT - I hadn't thought of that, always read the small print on the bottom, folks! *falls out of bed laughing* <--- bed? this time of day? Well it's cold!

    CG - That's quite a lot of needle work. I think I'm going to settle for 'The End' - then I can say it's any book!

  11. Something along the lines of a Dr.Seuss quote like
    "You are you and no one is youer than you"