Last year, East Williamsburgers Justin Taylor and Eva Talmadge edited The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide, which we don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call the new hipster coffee-table Bible. Recently, Talmadge put out a call for a new collection: if you have a music-related tattoo, she wants to include it in a forthcoming anthology, to be titled The Words to Every Song: Band Tattoos from Music Lovers Worldwide. We had some questions for her, and she had some answers.
Your project seems to be about the most permanent way in which we define ourselves through the art we love. So I guess music would be the next logical subject for a tattoo book. Movies next, right?
Ha ha. Following the literary tattoo book with a sequel about music tattoos was my agent’s suggestion, and a natural move for me: until getting a literary tattoo for the book trailer, nearly all of my tattoos have been music-inspired. As for movies, well, maybe! I haven’t met nearly as many people with film-related tattoos as I have with ink referencing books and music, but I’m sure they’re out there.
About how many submissions did you get for The Word Made Flesh? How many do you expect for this one?
We had around 200 submissions for TWMF by our publisher’s deadline for the book, and used about 150 of them (in addition to the tattoos Justin and I sought out and photographed ourselves). I’m hoping for the same number this time around, though I have a feeling I’ll be doing more hands-on work than last time—tracking down people with music tattoos, especially the more unique ones, and photographing and interviewing them myself.
How far did the “call for submissions” circulate? It seems to have started in a relatively modest corner of the internet, but I’m curious about the range—geography, age, and, for lack of a more specific word, sensibility, that you ended up with, and that you expect.
The call for submissions for The Word Made Flesh shot around the internet very quickly—and widely, too, from Forbes.com to the LA Times blog to MediaBistro and dozens of other places. The reaction has been quieter this time around, but I’m thinking the range of people who end up in the music book will be pretty similar to the first, which is to say all kinds. I’ve already seen everything from teenagers with fresh tattoos of their favorite bands to a cool guy in his 60s with a Grateful Dead bear on his arm. That’s one thing about books, music, and tattoos in general: they appeal to a pretty wide range of people. The latter only more recently, to be sure, but still—sometimes it seems like more people have tattoos than don’t.
Favorite music tattoos so far? Most popular so far?
There’s one guy who’s working on a full-sleeve rendering of the medieval hymn of St. John the Divine—I can’t wait to see that one when it’s finished. There’s also a Tom Waits portrait that I’m pretty happy about, and a Neutral Milk Hotel album cover that made me smile. No repeats yet, though among my friends there’s several sets of Black Flag bars—hopefully I’ll be able to snag at least one for the book.
Do you yourself have any tattoos?
Yes, quite a few: a half-sleeve on my left arm that contains, among other things, a Trojan Records logo and a DK sign, and a lotus blossom on my right shoulder. Oh, and as mentioned above, that literary tattoo: two rectangles as drawn by Daniil Kharms (or his translator), from a poem in the Oberiu anthology. Will I get another? I feel pretty set for now, though if there’s one thing I’ve learned about tattoos it’s that they’re incredibly addictive. So, yes. Someday. Maybe for book three.