Literary Tattoos

by Adam Reger

A few months ago I met a guy who had a tattoo on his inner forearm that read “Visceral Realist” in a typewriter-type font. I was impressed and amused by it, and by the coincidence of it: I’d recently finished The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolano, the novel that inspired the dude’s tattoo. And, moreover, the friend who’d loaned me the book was in town visiting, and had an hour or two before recounted a story a professor had told about knowing the real-life version of one of the characters, Luscious Skin. It was a pleasingly dense cluster of coincidences, which sort of felt true to the spirit of The Savage Detectives.

Anyway, the tattoo occasioned a subsequent bar conversation about what literary tattoo we each would get. It made me realize that a good book- or poem- or writer-themed tattoo is hard to come by; I had nothing, and I only remember people mentioning books they’d like to honor, rather than specific and germane images therefrom. (Tangential tattoo note: I doubt I’ll ever be inked, but I’ve long maintained that the tattoo I would get would be an image of a German shepherd’s head, placed squarely on my bicep a la a sailor’s tattoo of his faraway or long-lost dame. Something along these lines.)

So it was with interest that I came across this story, on Flavor Wire, which includes a fair number of literary tattoos, some great and some less great. As the story notes, it’s NSFW and also NSFLAATPL (Not Suitable for Looking at at the Public Library).