Friday, January 2, 2009

Currently Reading: The Tattoo Artist by Jill Ciment


Winter is not conducive to good inkspotting in the big city, so I've got nothing for you today.

Nothing, at least, in terms of tattoo photos.

I will report, however, that I am reading the book The Tattoo Artist by Jill Ciment.

A work of literary fiction, The Tattoo Artist tells the story of Sara Ehrenreich, who was born in the early part of the 20th Century, became an artist, went to the fictional island of Ta'un'uu, where the art of tattoo is celebrated as a cultural and spiritual form of expression.

I have only completed a brief section of the novel, but am enjoying the narrative immensely. The protagonist's tattoos are described by her briefly as the tale progresses. I have yet to reach the point where she becomes a tattoo artist. However, she describes early on, as an old woman looking back on her life, how she is covered fully by ink.

Here's how she describes one of her tattoos:

His portrait graces my left breast. It is the first tattoo I engraved on myself. The portrait, however, in no way resembles the face I kissed that night; an unlined, untested face of cavalier certitude that the future would be as easy to read as a palm. The face on my left breast is desecrated, pillaged of all illusions, and though it breaks my heart to admit it, it is also the weakest part of my design--the point on my flesh where my emotions exceeded my skill--and no amount of virtuosity can disguise that weakness. The face on my left breast is a living death mask, as far removed from the young Philip as I am from the girl I was.

I haven't finished the book, but would certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys literary fiction and has even a cursory interest in the art of tattoo.

Thanks to Cynthia, my mother-in-law, for yet another inspired holiday gift!

Here's a link to a review of the book in The New York Times.

Read a preview/excerpt in Google Books here.


3 comments:

Carrie said...

Thanks for telling us about this book!

MelRoberts said...

Here I'm sure that's in Virgin in the sale.. here's hoping it's there by the time my student loan's in on the 12th, 'cos that excerpt was really cool, I'd read that like HOW!

Charity said...

Thanks for the heads up about the book. I just finished it a few days ago and I was impressed by the writing above and beyond the topic of the book. I will be picking up more books by Ciment, and probably more ink too.