When I heard read about this book for the first time, I thought that it’s going to be, more or less, a poor copy of ‘Body Type’ by Ina Saltz, playing on growing popularity of tattoos in general and literary tattoos in particular but once I got the chance to browse through and read the book, I could see that I was mistaken!
Sure, there are a few similarities between ‘Body Type’ and ‘Word Made Flesh’ books. The subject is the same and a way to present the tattoos, meanings and people behind the tattoos seem to be similar at first, too but once you start to look deeper and compare both books, you begin to see how different the approach in both books is.
Ina Saltz focused mainly on typography and her second book on the subject even has ‘typographic tattoos’ included in the title while the authors of the ‘Word Made Flesh’ book were more interested in people’s love of the books and words and how they perceive the world and themselves through the books and authors. In ‘Body Type’ books the visual effects are sometimes more important than anything else and the author does a great job on showing us how complex and fascinating the world of typography is. In ‘Word Made Flesh’ it’s more about people’s feelings. ‘Body Type’ books are great for ‘typophiles’ while ‘Word Made Flesh’ is more bookworms-oriented.
Some entries in this book are very short, just the name of a given tattoo owner and a reference to a literary work involved, but others are much more detailed and personal. In a few cases a picture of a person wearing the tattoo(s) in question was included which definitely adds to the experience of reading about the story and meaning behind the tattoo – it’s one thing to just read words about words/ books and it’s completely different to know what a given person looks like! In such cases, ‘word made flesh’ gets yet another dimension.
The book is quite small, just 173 pages, but on most of them we can encounter both interesting people, very interesting stories and quite original tattoos showing us, once again, how amazing human imagination and feelings are. There are at least a few tattoos here that really stand out and impress both with their meanings, designs and how they were done.
Worth mentioning is also the section devoted to the ‘Skin’ project by Shelley Jackson where one can read not only about people who decided to take part in the project but also learn some facts (and numbers) about the project.
Finally, ‘Word Made Flesh’ can also serve as a literary guide about books worth reading – such names as Vonnegut, e.e cummings, Kafka and Dostoyevsky appear here right next to Neil Gaiman, William Gibson and a bunch of authors I’ve never heard of.
A poor copy of ‘Body Type’? Certainly not! Worth reading? Definitely!
Eva Talmadge, Justin Taylor, The Word Made Flesh. Literary Tattoos From Bookworms Worldwide, Harper Perennial, 2010