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Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them

Overview

Every tattoo tells a story, whether the ink is meaningful or the result of a misguided decision made at the age of fourteen, representative of the wearer's true self or the accidental consequence of a bender. These most permanent and intimate of body adornments are hidden by pants legs and shirttails, emblazoned on knuckles, or tucked inside mouths. They are battle scars and beauty marks, totems and mementos.

Pen & Ink grants us access to the tattoos-and the stories behind ...

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Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them

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Overview

Every tattoo tells a story, whether the ink is meaningful or the result of a misguided decision made at the age of fourteen, representative of the wearer's true self or the accidental consequence of a bender. These most permanent and intimate of body adornments are hidden by pants legs and shirttails, emblazoned on knuckles, or tucked inside mouths. They are battle scars and beauty marks, totems and mementos.

Pen & Ink grants us access to the tattoos-and the stories behind them-of writers Cheryl Strayed and Roxane Gay; rockers in the bands Korn, Otep, and Five Finger Death Punch; and even a porn star. But it also illuminates the tattoos of the ordinary people living in our midst-from professors to thrift store salespeople, cafe owners to librarians, union organizers to administrators-and their extraordinary lives.

Curated and edited by Isaac Fitzgerald, who sports twelve tattoos himself, each story “is like being let in on . . . secrets by . . . strangers who passed you on the street or sat across from you on the train” (Strayed) and features Wendy MacNaughton's gorgeously rendered full-color illustrations of the tattoos on black-and-white drawings of the bearer's body. At its heart, beneath its colorful skin, Pen & Ink is an exploration of the decision to scar one's self with a symbol and a story.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
05/19/2014
Based on the popular Tumblr pen & ink, Fitzgerald (books editor at BuzzFeed) and illustrator MacNaughton (Lost Cat) bring their inspired collaboration to the page. The premise is simple: Fitzgerald and MacNaughton asked online readers to submit an image of their tattoo and its story. The book features 63 tattoos, with text that answers questions including: the reason for the tattoo, the individual’s name and profession. Drawn in a whimsical, tender style, MacNaughton’s portraits are captivating in their intimacy: the lower half of a hirsute man with his pants down, a skateboarding bear on his right thigh; a student peeling down her lower lip to expose the words “I forget” in black ink. The accompanying explanations, some of which are entertainingly straightforward (a fondness for pizza) and others that tell a darker story (a celebration of survival after a sexual assault), demonstrate resilience and imagination. Without judgment or regret, this emotionally raw collection, featuring an introduction by Cheryl Strayed, explores how we find permanence in an impermanent world. As MacNaughton says of her very first tattoo, “What the tattoo does prove is that Wendy, like most 19-year olds, used to take things very seriously, and that things change.” 4-color illus. throughout. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy, Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Oh my god, this gorgeous, gorgeous book. It will, like its subject, alter you permanently. We sometimes forget: each tattoo has its story. Many are lovingly recorded here—from the wicked to the profound to the ridiculous. This gorgeous, gorgeous book perfectly chronicles the stories that we wear on our skin." —Colin Meloy, lead singer of The Decemberists

"For anybody who ever looked at a stranger's tattoo and wondered why?, Pen & Ink offers a gorgeous, hilarious, and moving Because. In its pages, the most amateurish, outlandish, and bizarre tattoos become portals into their owners' lives and dreams. In the process, they become beautiful." —Peter Trachtenberg, author of Seven Tattoos

"In Pen & Ink, Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton have captured the fascinating stories people secret beneath their skin, how they have marked their skin and why. The revelations in this remarkable collection are, in turns, poignant, charming, heartbreaking, and honest. Like tattoos, these stories leave an impression that will linger." —Roxane Gay

"Inspired . . . Drawn in a whimsical, tender style, MacNaughton’s portraits are captivating in their intimacy . . . Without judgment or regret, this emotionally raw collection, featuring an introduction by Cheryl Strayed, explores how we find permanence in an impermanent world." —Publishers Weekly

"Kitschy, hipster . . . MacNaughton’s drawings are lovely . . . . The book is charming . . . enchanting. This is a title that readers can leaf through a little at a time, savoring the illustrations, or perhaps devour in one sitting." —Library Journal

"The real reasons people get tattoos." —Flavorwire, 25 Must-Read Books for the Fall

"Fascinating . . . Gorgeous." —Mother Jones

"Each ink drawing is a secret story. What I love most about this book is that it doesn’t cover just huge sleeves and complicated tattoos, it also honors the newly popular (again) art of poke-and-stick tattoos." —Design*Sponge, Best Illustrated Books

"Pen & Ink is absolutely delightful from cover to cover." —Maria Popova, Brainpickings

"Beautifully illustrated . . . More than a keepsake for tattoo enthusiasts; it is an artifact of diverse, deeply human histories, like the cave paintings of Lascaux or an illuminated manuscript, a compilation of intimate knowledge we can only hope to see continued in the future." —Shelf Awareness

“New favorite Tumblr.” —Maria Popova, @brainpicker on the Pen & Ink Tumblr

“Reveal[s] the often hilarious, sometimes poignant stories behind these permanent remnants of our fleeting opinions, passions and phases.” —O, The Oprah Magazine on the Pen & Ink Tumblr

“The second my eyes met the beautiful drawings I was in love.” —Conz Preti, ABCNews.com on the Pen & Ink Tumblr

"Inspired . . . Drawn in a whimsical, tender style, MacNaughton’s portraits are captivating in their intimacy . . . Without judgment or regret, this emotionally raw collection, featuring an introduction by Cheryl Strayed, explores how we find permanence in an impermanent world." —Publishers Weekly

"Kitschy, hipster . . . MacNaughton’s drawings are lovely . . . . The book is charming . . . enchanting. This is a title that readers can leaf through a little at a time, savoring the illustrations, or perhaps devour in one sitting." —Library Journal

Library Journal
08/01/2014
Fitzgerald (books editor, Buzzfeed) and MacNaughton (Lost Cat) illustrate and narrate in a kitschy, hipster way the tattoos of others. Their work began with musicians, writers, illustrators, and everyday people submitting their tattoos and the stories behind them to penandink.tumblr.com, and Fitzgerald and MacNaughton transforming them into visual narratives. The reasons that the tattooed give for their ink vary from almost profound to really silly, and are all related through Fitzgerald's voice. MacNaughton's drawings are lovely and are rendered in almost all black and white with hints of a few colors in select tattoos. These stories are now compiled offline in this volume, which raises the question: If it's free on Tumblr why buy the print version? Because the book is charming. Not groundbreaking or earth shattering or revelatory but enchanting. This is a title that readers can leaf through a little at a time, savoring the illustrations, or perhaps devour in one sitting. VERDICT For hipsters, people who give hipsters gifts, readers who love tattoos, people who give tattooed people gifts, and those interested in popular culture and the translation of Internet content into print books.—Amelia Osterud, Carroll Univ. Lib., Waukesha, WI

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620404904
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 10/7/2014
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 121,359
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Isaac Fitzgerald has been a firefighter, worked on a boat, and been given a sword by a king, thereby accomplishing three out of five of his childhood goals. He has also written for McSweeney's, Mother Jones, and The San Francisco Chronicle. He is the editor of BuzzFeed Books. Visit him at isaacfitzgerald.net and follow him @isaacfitzgerald. He lives in New York City.

Wendy MacNaughton is a New York Times bestselling illustrator whose books include Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology, and whose work has appeared in places like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lucky Peach, and Print Magazine. Visit her at wendymacnaughton.com and follow her @wendymac. She lives in San Francisco, CA.

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