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DOROTHY PARKER'S ELBOW Reviewed
Dorothy Parkerís Elbow
edited by Kim Addonizio and Cheryl Demesnil.
The editors of DOROTHY PARKERíS ELBOW got the idea for their book title from the little-known historical fact that author and theater-critic Dorothy Parker had a tattoo of a small star near the elbow of one of her arms. What they've collected here are stories from writers on tattoos, and of tattoos on writers.
This anthology contains fiction, nonfiction, poetry, prose, declaration, explorations and more, all surrounding the subject of tattoos. It's a celebration of the tattoo, as well as an acknowledgment that tattooing has clearly made its mark in modern culture. No longer relegated solely to the world of the biker or the petty thug, tattooing is everywhere.
Women and tattooing are readily present in this collection. There's the reality of learning to tattoo from Karol Griffin in "Grapefruit Skin," a historical look at women and tattooing from tattooist Madame Chinchilla, and Deena Metzger's post-mastectomy tattoo in an except from "Tree." These women all speak of claiming their own space and bodies via tattooing.
Peter Trachtenberg's excerpt from his book 7 TATTOOS talks of how he has to deal with his father and Jewish guilt when getting his tattoo. Auschweitz survivor Paul Steinberg brings another Jewish angle with his story of what it was like to be tattooed in the concentration camp.
Several contributions come from well-known writers: Sylvia Plath, Herman Melville, Franz Kafka. It's interesting to read these passages that touch on tattooing as stand-alones from the greater literary works. Hopefully, they will spark a few readers to explore the original publications in their entirety.
Some of the pieces are poignant, some are funny, some are all too brief. I know the intention of the editors was to let a variety of the emotions that surround the process of tattooing and having tattoos show, but I wish they had written introductions to the various pieces or made some comment about why they chose the authors or selections that they did. I really enjoyed reading DOROTHY PARKER'S ELBOW, but as someone who is already well-versed in the history and experience of tattooing, I wished I could have heard more from the editors regarding their thoughts and opinions on the subject. As the photo on the back of the book shows, both women have tattoos themselves.
Maybe this book was designed on purpose to do what getting a tattoo does for many people: it leaves you wanting more.
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