7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh

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9780140273908: 7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh

In the tradition of The Basketball Diaries -- a startling account of a life lived on the edge

Sulfurously funny and intellectually provocative, 7 Tattoos is a journey without maps through the labyrinth of a human soul. There are only a few landmarks as guideposts: the ones carved on the author's own flesh. Each section of this innovative book is the story of one of Peter Trachtenberg's tattoos, as well as a daring, intelligent exploration of the themes that each tattoo evokes: death, sacrilege, primitivism, rebellion, atonement, sadomasochism, and downfall. 7 Tattoos introduces us to a man responding ingeniously and emotionally to the harrowing events of his life: funerary rites in Borneo, heroin addiction on Manhattan's Lower East Side, the deathwatches of both his parents. Though it features deft portraits of famous tattoo artists like Spider Webb, Trachtenberg's book is not about tattoos; rather it is an arsenal of ideas fired off with great emotional power. At once memoir, wild anthropology, and meditation on love, faithlessness, and faith, this stunningly original book redefines what a literary memoir can be.

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From the Author:

"The artistry and humor of his writing, the pain of his mercilessly self-punishing insights, the relentlessness of his guilty misanthropy . . . . all give Trachtenberg a solid claim to being a genuine American Dostoevsky." - The Washington Post

"Written with wit, humility, passion, and a razor-sharp perspicacity. . . . You feel he must be writing for his life." - Madison Smartt Bell, Spin

"This book seized my attention in a hammerlock and wouldn't let go . . . . Trachtenberg is a splendid writer: brutally direct, whimsically funny, always enlightening. Read him." -- Mademoiselle

"Trachtenberg is a splendid, if curious, raconteur....painfully exact and shriekingly funny....his beautiful timing and assured storyteller's architectural sense... are so pleasurable that they never obscure or trivialize his prickly, sometimes carbolic subjects. There are some books that aren't like any other books, the ones you remember most fondly while scratching your head and wondering how they did it. Nabokov's 'Pale Fire' or John Collier's 'His Monkey Wife' or Camilo Jose Cela's 'Mrs. Caldwell Speaks to Her Son" or Hazlitt's 'Liber Amoris' or Supervielle's 'Voleur des Enfants' or Sacheverell Sitwell's 'Splendours and Miseries' or, most recently, Geoffrey O'Brien's 'The Phantom Empire' come to mind. 'Seven Tattoos' is another one.'" - New Orleans Times-Picayune

From the Inside Flap:

Peter Trachtenberg's Seven Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh is much more than the memories of an eloquent writer. It's wild anthropology, eclectic theology, literary observation, and a treatise on the uses of body modification and tattooing. Even Trachtenberg's most harrowing and absurd experiences become universal through his illuminating prose.

As a Jew drawn to the ritual of Catholicism, plagued by its guilt and craving its absolution, he gets a tattoo of the wound of Christ. An unfilial son and regretful lover, he marks himself with the Archangel Michael, who drove Adam and Eve from Paradise. "Most tattoos are signifiers of the past, commemorating events that have already transpired. That's how I see most of mine," Trachtenberg explains. "But tattoos may also act upon the future, protect the body from impending danger or consecrate it for some arduous task ahead."  

Each chapter in Seven Tattoos explores the theme evoked by the corresponding tattoo: death, sacrilege, primitivism, rebellion, atonement, sadomasochism, downfall. Each of Trachtenberg's seven tattoos is a totem, a print the world has left on him that he has chosen to display on his body. Like fresh ink, Seven Tattoos is striking, bold and indelible.

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