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Seven Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  170 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 263 pages
Published April 29th 1997 by Crown (first published 1997)
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Mar 21, 2013 Kyle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The seven tattoos in this memoir serve as touchstones for Trachtenberg's recollection of life, of suffering, of trauma, addiction, and damaged relationships. Ultimately, he weaves a beautiful memorial to his parents, and a memorable portrait of himself.
Sep 28, 2008 Felicia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm fond of the memoir, I guess. Self-indulgent, uber-introspective, overly inward-looking. This memoir I found fantastic. The writing -- prolly no better than most. The writer -- new york transplant, ex addicted-to-everything, defining his life's momentous occurrences by sealing them into his flesh. Boy, howdy, did I eat it up. Life looked at through every possible lens: jungian interpretation, classical religion, indigenous subsets, love and loss and heroin. Self pity and self grandiosity and ...more
Jul 10, 2015 Ioanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book; you know it from the first pages when you start checking notable paragraphs and underlining memorable phrases until you realize if this keeps on you will have checked and underlined the whole book. It is about tattoos, but they are incidental, and really it's a memoir. And the places Peter Trachtenberg goes, and the lovers and heroine he has done in the places he goes, and the thoughts he has wherever he is now about whatever has engaged him in his strange (for a coll ...more
Mark Hill
Nov 01, 2009 Mark Hill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging sometimes very funny memoir of Trachtenberg's quest for his tattoos. Each tattoo has a story behind it. I recommend it!
Rebecca Dobrinski
Oct 07, 2013 Rebecca Dobrinski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In addition to my current interest in memoirs, I have always been fascinated by the stories behind people’s tattoos. I often ask people (with the caveat that they can refuse to tell me) about why they get certain tattoos. I also wrote a Bright Life (at Zen Dixie) column last December about the meaning behind some tattoos, including a few of mine. Which led me to Peter Trachtenberg’s memoir, 7 Tattoos.

If you are looking for a straight up “these are my tattoos and here’s why I got them,” then you
the first couple of chapters had me feeling that this was an incredible book and i was really loving it. at about half way through i lost momentum. i skimmed the last half. i think it was the fact that i could not relate to his level of guilt. political guilt, religious guilt, family guilt, sexual guilt and above all else the guilt surrounding his tattoos (and i have tatts). i just couldn't relate. apart from that i enjoyed his style of writing and his travel stories. this is an enjoyable book f ...more
Jan 11, 2010 Mandie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not particularly impressed with this so far, and I'm almost done with it. The tattoos are not really the focus, which is what I had assumed when I ILL'd the darn thing. I'm only really finishing it because I'm stubborn. I thought that Trachtenberg would talk about the meaning behind each tattoo, and he does...somewhat. But he rambles and wanders off on tangents, and I find myself wandering off too, wondering what's on tv. I think that if he had tightened up the stories a bit, it would have h ...more
Aug 01, 2011 Jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, I have one tattoo, and as Trachtenberg describes his tattoos, it is a permanent visual reminder of a specific painful life lesson. I have often marvelled at those who get a decorative, just for fun tattoo (such as Tweety Bird, dancing bears, etc). What's the point? Is the author self-absorbed as a previous review described him? Of course. Don't you have to be self-absorbed to write a memoir? Anyway, I liked this memoir...though I can't think of many friends to recommend it to.
Aug 06, 2016 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great collection of essays in one of my favorite genres : the addition memoir, here filtered as stories through the writers tattoos. Bonus : the writer used to live in Baltimore, and Baltimore haunts get dropped throughout - something I didn't know when I got the book ages ago.

It makes me happy to see how successful Trachtenberg is now (a professor in Pittsburgh) because he walked a thin line in his youth. Inspiration for the cynic.
Bethany Lovell
May 12, 2013 Bethany Lovell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my all-time favs! This is a memoir that focuses on the author's seven tattoos. Each chapter tells the story of how and why the tat came to be. The man is fucked-up but fascinating! Dark, sometimes humorous, mostly disturbing... oh, how I love this book!
Sep 30, 2007 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Each chapter centers around one of the writer's 7 tattoos, a format that works really well. Steve Almond-esque.
Oct 12, 2013 Ian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the start of the book with the stories behind his tattoos, it became a little too family orientated. Of course that is important to the author but I liked his Africa experiences more.
Rae Jones
Aug 07, 2012 Rae Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful language. Novel concept of how to tie a variety of life experiences together into a cohesive manner.
Aubrey Minutaglio
Aubrey Minutaglio rated it it was ok
Jan 14, 2010
Amy Buchanan
Amy Buchanan rated it liked it
May 21, 2012
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Dec 06, 2007
saricima rated it it was amazing
Jun 18, 2010
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Louise Dean rated it liked it
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Renee Scott rated it it was ok
Jan 09, 2009
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Peter Trachtenberg is the author of the memoir 7 TATTOOS, THE BOOK OF CALAMITIES: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning (Little Brown, August 2008), and ANOTHER INSANE DEVOTION (Da Capo, October 2012), a book about the search for a missing cat that's also an encode
More about Peter Trachtenberg...

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“In the middle of my depression, somebody told me about a self-help
group for people who wanted to persue personal visions, and I thought
that might be just the thing for me, since I no longer had any. So I
went to this Goals Meeting. It was in an Episcopal church in the leafy
suburbs, and when I walked inside, a nice lady was explaing that her
Goal was to get out of debt and buy a pony for her little daughter.
Then this other fellow got up to share. He was a white boy in a
dashiki. He said, "My name is Ira and I have a Goal. Right now I'm
unemployed and in debt and I'm living with my parents, who don't
understand me at all. But my faith in this program is so huge that I
know that one year from today I'm going to be traveling across the
United States with my Spirit Guide. My Spirit Guide is going to be a
while malamute dog named Isis. I mean, I know this as clearly as I've
known anything in my life. My Goal is for Isis to guide me to the
homes of my favorite self-help authoers. Isis is going to take me to
meet John Bradshaw and Louise Hay and M. Scott Peck, and I'm going to
get them to mentor me!" He kind of bellowed this. And I wasn't sure
whether Ira was exactly what John Bradshaw and Louise Hay and M. Scott
Peck deserved or whether I hoped they kept shotguns in their homes. I
was honestly torn.”
“The philosopher Berkley claimed that everything in the universe
exists solely as a thought in the mind of God. In response to this
Samuel Johnson is supposed to have kicked a stone and said, "I refuse
him thus!"
Nowhere is it written that Johnson stubbed his toe when he kicked
that stone. But he probably did and it probably hurt.”
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