Are Literary Tattoos Mainstream? Miami's Eva Talmadge Talks Ink and Books

With the Miami Book Fair within reach and fresh off being named the ninth dumbest city in America, we feel compelled to wear our literacy on our sleeves -- as in shoulder to elbow ink. In case you haven't noticed, pop culture is riding a wave of lit tattoos, and one Miami-born author has compiled the best of the best in The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide, published just last month.

Among the 150 designs, there's everything from Harry Potter spells on pale wrists ("Lumos") to Samuel Becket on biceps ("I can't go on, I'll go on"). There's even a guy with a full Theodor Adorno essay on his back (photo after the jump) who tells the authors "I'm always shocked at how few people make themselves into a lifelong monument to their favorite prose or verse." We spoke to Talmadge about the lit tattoo trend and her childhood in Coral Gables. We also snagged some great photos from the collection. Have a lit tattoo yourself? We'd like to see it.

Eva Talmadge spent her days at Coral Gables High School penning zines

(State and Revolution and Tri-County), where she interviewed ska, oi,

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and punk bands that played Miami's mid-to-late '90s music scene. Armed

with a BA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing, she now does

foreign rights for a literary agency and lives in Brooklyn.


After her roommate came home with a Faulkner tattoo and her friend and

co-author Justin Taylor's roommate came home with a Moby Dick design (in addition

to his existing Mark Twain portrait), they smelled a book deal.


First, they put a call for submissions on the hipster literary website,

HTMLGiant. The first submission came in the very same day and avalanched

from there. Among Talmadge's favorites -- as someone who's been getting

music-related and subculture ink since she was 17 -- are a full, colorful Kafka sleeve and a stanza from John Berryman's "Dream Song."

Talmadge says "The subculture of going to shows was always totally

separate than my bookish inclinations. Doing this book was a way of

bringing the two together."


But why does it seem like everyone is getting lit tattoos and why right

now? Talmadge explains that body art has become very mainstream -- almost

40% of the U.S. population has ink --  that and the fact that "being a

book nerd is becoming kind of cool -- the whole hipster librarian thing."


Among the everyday folks featured, including staff from our local Books & Books, there are a few well-known authors. Rick Moody shows off the "here" on his forearm, Tao Lin reveals a self-referential tattoo, and Jonathan Lethem brandishes his Philip K. Dick Ubik spray-can on his arm.

Talmadge hopes to do a book event at Books & Books in

February or March. In the meantime, visit the book's Tumblr page for daily pics

of lit tattoos and buy a copy of their book (just $14.99 at Books & Books). Have your own lit tattoo?

Email your info and pic to cultist@miaminewtimes.com and we'll feature

the best ones in their very own post.

Here's a sample from The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide:

Books & Books' Becky Quiroga had Hungry Caterpillar author Eric Carle sketch her tattoo at a Miami book event.
Books & Books' Becky Quiroga had Hungry Caterpillar author Eric Carle sketch her tattoo at a Miami book event.

Last line from James Joyce's Ulysses
Last line from James Joyce's Ulysses
Jenni Ripley



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