Book Club: Dorothy Parker’s Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos

Once the terrain of drunken sailors and circus freaks, in the past twenty years the American tattoo parlor has attracted individuals as diverse as our nation’s population. Whatever the motivation or background, no matter how large or small the design, baring your flesh to the tattooist’s needle initiates you into the tribe–a tribe that has grown enormously in recent years. (Dorothy Parker’s Elbow, Addonizio and Dumesnil)

Whether one is inked from head to toe or repelled by the very notion of a tattoo, there’s no escaping that tattoos fascinate. In Dorothy Parker’s Elbow, editors Kim Addonizio and Cheryl Dumesnil suggest that “Behind every tattoo stands a story that people want to hear.” They’ve collected those stories in this collection, “Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos.”

Well-known writers from Flannery O’Connor and Ray Bradbury to Sylvia Plath and Franz Kafka weigh in alongside Mark Doty, Madame Chinchilla and Karol Griffin in essays, short stories and poems about the tattoo.  From the intricacy of the design to the intimacy of its placement on the skin, the tattoo is highly a personal act, often tapping into “existential questions: Who are you? Where do you belong?” While tattoos can be the result of a drink too many, they can also be profound statement of identity, as in Deena Metzger’s tattoo surrounding her mastectomy scar.

Join us in September for a new book club exploring this collection of tattoo literature, starting September 4. For the first week, we’ll consider the selections beginning with Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” through Elizabeth McCracken’s “It’s Bad Luck to Die.”

Buy Dorothy Parker’s Elbow now

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Photo by Meanest Indian, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Lyla Willingham Lindquist.


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    • L. L. Barkat says

      hoping, then, that you’ll write us some great tattoo poetry in September (and maybe grant us some pictures :) )

  1. L. L. Barkat says

    And I am very curious… not sure people get tattoos accidentally as a result of one too many drinks (and I know you are teasing there)… Still, I wonder what the typical emotional/thought process is, if there’s a typical process.

  2. Kathryn Neel says

    No alcohol involved in my decision to get my tat. Thought about it for a very long time (over a year), carefully picked the artist and presented him with the design. After almost 15 years I still like it.

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