It’s the second book by Kat Von D I own and my feelings about it are as mixed as they are about the author herself. On the one hand, it’s obvious that Von D is a very talented and creative person; her tattoos are quite amazing, she seems lively, energetic and has built quite a fan base over the years. On the other hand, I don’t buy her persona as shown on TLC shows and find her annoying and fake-ish at times. Her ‘Tattoo Chronicles’ were way too open and personal for my taste.
With her new book she slightly changed her approach to book writing. Her co-author, Sandra Bark, is the same as with the ‘Tattoo Chronicles’ but the approach is a little different and less personal although Von D is again doing what she seems to be the best at, talking about herself.
When I finished reading this book, I sat back and pondered on it. What was good about it? And what really sucked? Since I didn’t fall in love with it, here’s a short, subjective list of cons and pros.
The full title of the book is ‘Go Big or Go Home. Taking Risks in Life, Love and Tattooing’ and that’s what Von D had done – she went quite big with discussing her life (again) and going back all the way to her teenage years to recall on her past experiences. It makes sense, of course, but if you write about it in your first book, then refer to some of the events in your second book and interviews etc., after a while it gets really repetitive, doesn’t it?
The book contains seven essays discussing seven ‘virtues’ Von D finds important (individuality, strength, creativity, independence, presence, wisdom, altruism). Her opinions and point of view are based on her much repeated past experiences but she also adds a new factor – her stage fright and efforts to learn how to sing. The essays are interesting to a degree but personally I don’t buy a cheap psychobabble about finding your inner strength, reaching deep within to find your true self etc. All of these and more have been said hundreds (if not thousands) of times before and much better than here.
As with ‘Tattoo Chronicles’ before, I found some of her writing definitely too personal, almost on the verge of emotional exhibitionism and wondered what made her show her feelings to random people out there. In ‘Go Big…’ it’s not as radical/ awkward as it was in ‘Tattoo Chronicles’ but still, the whole book would be decent without cryptic letters and references.
While reading this book I wondered if Von D’s constant referring to her stage fright and love for singing was a trick to start promoting her upcoming music album? It’s quite possible as it’s too good of an opportunity to let it pass unused.
Having all that said, the book also has a few pros and they should be mentioned!
Von D definitely knows how to publish an eye-pleasing book and this one definitely looks as good, if not better, as ‘Tattoo Chronicles.’ A hardcover, solidly done, on good paper, it would look good on a coffee table for sure (my copy of ‘Tattoo Chronicles’ is buried under some magazines and a few brand-new PunkRope jumping ropes, though, and this one is going to land in there soon, too).
There are some really good pictures of Von D at work and some of her clients being tattooed by her. These pictures provide a nice background for the stories she tells about the tattoos and people who wear them and that actually saves the whole book for me! It’s always the context and stories behind that fascinate me, not the news straight from the gossip column.
The stories chosen for the book could have been more varied and less about celebrities (Ewan McGregor, Linda Perry, Billy Joe Armstrong) but they still convey the meaning of tattoos for the people who chose them, what the tattooing process meant to Von d and how eager she is to grow as a person by means of learning from others. It’s interesting to see her not as a plastic celeb but as a living human being with a passion to learn from others.
I don’t think I will get back to this book any time soon but I do not regret buying it. Von D is an important part of the modern tattoo scene, especially in this popular version where tattoos can be easily done and even easier erased a few months later, where every body has its story and it must be a very sad one at that. It’s interesting to watch how she tries to juggle both her popularity, fame and celeb status and her (real or not) love for alternative art and underground. In a way, she’s a victim of the plastic show biz and yet she deserves a lot of credit for her talent and passion, even if they are stained by the fake TV glamour.
Kat Von D, Go Big or Go Home, Harper Design 2013