Book lovers around the world have found a new way to show their appreciation for their favorite texts: literary tattoos.
From famous quotes by Shakespeare to secret symbols envisioned by Thomas Pynchon, tats inspired by literature are quickly becoming best-sellers for the bookish type.
Literary tattoos might be a trend, but they're not a literary movement or a tattoo scene, according to writer Justin Taylor, co-editor of the newly released book "The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide" (HarperPerennial).
"You're starting to see tattoos on a lot of people who you didn't used to see with tattoos," said Taylor, who doesn't have any ink but has "come close a few times."
"Lawyers, teachers, all kinds of white collars and all kinds of creative arts people are getting this stuff," he said. "Tattoos are going the way of the nose ring -- from being a kind of an outsider statement to the kind of thing that you might see on your kid's third-grade teacher and not worry about too much."
So obviously, when literary people such as authors, editors, librarians, booksellers -- and even hardcore bookworms -- head to the tattoo parlor, their design choice is often influenced by the page.
"To people who read and people who love literature, it makes as much sense to choose something from a book that they love as it does to choose the Chinese symbol for wealth, or the word 'Mother' in a heart," Taylor said.
Taylor's co-editor Eva Talmadge -- who doubles as his literary agent -- says she's been interested in both tattoos and literature since she was young. But only recently has the self-described "tattoo collector" seen her interests converge.
"A part of it is that as tattoos are becoming mainstream, more 'mainstream people' are getting tattoos that reflect their values and beliefs," Talmadge said.
Taylor and Talmadge say they decided to put together "The Word Made Flesh" when their roommates came home with literary tattoos referencing William Faulkner and "Moby-Dick" (Taylor's housemate already had a caricature of Mark Twain inked on his arm).
The duo solicited book lovers to submit photos of their literary tattoos on TattooLit.com, and 150 images appear in their book.
Dozens of other photos of literary tattoos can be found online at websites such as Contrariwise.org and Book Worms With Ink.
Like writing itself, literary tattoos can take any form. Some are big, like sprawling tributes to Jack Kerouac or full essays on Marcel Proust that cover the entire back. Some are small, such as a semicolon inked on a bicep.
Some are easy to recognize, such as a raven with the word "Nevermore" -- a reference to Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem. Others are more obscure, such as a rectangle and the words "What's outside the window" -- a graphic lifted from "The Savage Detectives," by Roberto Bolano.
Authors themselves are turning to literary tattoos. Jonathan Lethem, the writer of "Fortress of Solitude" and "Chronic City," among other works, has a tattoo of the cover of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick's masterpiece "Ubik" on his arm.
Writer Shelley Jackson is even composing a new work using tattoos instead of paper. Literary tattoo lovers can volunteer to be inked with a single word from her 2,095-word short story, titled "Skin."
Although literary tattoos have found a following, not everyone is giving them good reviews.
"Tattoo artists generally don't like to do text-only tattoos because they are challenging," Talmadge said. "With a text tattoo or with a very fine geometric line work, there's no room for error, so some tattoo artists go a little bonkers having to deal with that."
Fortunately for tattoo artists, not all literary tattoos are text-based.
Taylor and Talmadge's book features memorable illustrations from Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends," Louise Fitzhugh's "Harriet the Spy" and even scenes inspired by Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote."
A great range of authors is represented by literary tattoos -- from popular contemporary writers like horror author Stephen King, "Harry Potter" scribe J.K. Rowling and "Twilight" creator Stephenie Meyer, to literary legends Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett.
According to Talmadge, the text most often referenced in literary tattoos is Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five," which offers up a number of memorable quotes like "So it goes," and "Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt."
Also popular are odes to Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, and e.e. cummings.
For some bibliophiles, wearing the title of a favorite book on their sleeve -- or their chest, for that matter -- can be a great conversation starter. Others see literary tattoos as a more personal way to commemorate a book they love.
"It's a very interesting way of mixing public and private. You're broadcasting a message everyone can see, but only some people can understand," Taylor said.
According to Talmadge, some literary tattoos are meant to be easily recognizable, while others are designed to be esoteric.
"Some people are very outgoing -- they want to be an open book. They want to have Maurice Sendak's 'Where the Wild Things Are' tattooed across their back," Talmadge said. "Others want references that are more obscure. They get them on the inside of the arm or on a hidden part of the body where no one but their doctor will see it."
She says she settled on the homage to Kharms because she loves his dark sense of humor, and because she had never seen a tattoo for the Soviet-era surrealist.
"In part, I wanted to get something no one else had," she said. "I didn't want it to be text, because I already have some text tattoos. And I didn't want someone just looking at my forearm to be able to read it."