Why I (Still) Don’t Have a Literary Tattoo

I love tattoos. I think they can be so beautiful—simply as art worn on one’s skin, as a memory of a certain beloved place, person, or event in one’s life, as tribute to a favorite movie, band, hobby, what have you. I love the stories behind tattoos.

I just love stories.

It makes sense for me to get a literary tattoo. I’m obsessed with books. You know that bumper sticker that says, “I’d rather be reading?” Well, that’s me. At almost all times. (It doesn’t help that I’m a major introvert.)

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Source: Neatorama

I spend a lot of time looking up literary tattoos on the internet. I follow literary tattoo Tumblrs, I google-image search for them at least weekly, and every time I finish a book I check the internet to see who has a tattoo based on said book. (I found a lot of great ones for Watership Down.)

It’s not that I’m afraid to get a tattoo.  I already have one—I got it three years ago in celebration of coming out at age 20.

So what’s the holdup?

I think the problem is that there are too many good books. I can’t make up my mind! Every time I think I’ve found a book worthy of a permanent place on my skin, I read a new book that I end up loving even more.

There are my old standbys: Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Matilda. And there are  children’s picture books I’ve considered for tattoos: The Tomten, The Mitten, Round Robin. Books my mom read to me over and over as a child.

But then what about books I read in college? Books I read last month? What about my favorite phrase in A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man—“a day of dappled seaborne clouds”? What about the poems in Emily Dickinson’s fascicle 17? My new favorite, Bastard Out of Carolina? The illustrations from Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home? There are so many possibilities! And even if I settle on a book, what then? An illustration? A favorite quote? The two combined? 

So, what about it? Do any of you have literary tattoos? If you were to get one, what would it be?

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8 thoughts on “Why I (Still) Don’t Have a Literary Tattoo

  1. I’m highly unlikely to ever get a tattoo… but the times I have considered it, literary tattoos were definitely in the (hypothetical) running. I think you’re right though in that there are so many ideas to choose from… and if my “favorite book” (right, like I have just one?) changes from day to day, how can I possibly pick something that will be the right choice now and forever?

    I would probably go with a short quote, or some kind of symbol, rather than an actual picture (I’ve always been drawn to simple over elaborate).

  2. I could be tempted by a literary tattoo (if they weren’t permanent) but I think that the one in the picture above would be a little garish for me. Maybe something from the passion “You play, you win, you play, you lose. You play.” or “There is no sense in forgetting and every sense in dreaming.” or “Trust me, I’m telling you stories.”

    Or Phillip Larkin’s Arundel Tomb “And to prove Our almost-instinct almost true: What will survive of us is love.”

    But if I started I would end up looking like a book. It’s best I don’t start.

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