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The Electric Michelangelo
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The Electric Michelangelo

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  1,492 ratings  ·  204 reviews
Opening on the windswept front of Morecambe Bay, on the remote north-west coast of England, The Electric Michelangelo is a novel of love, loss and the art of tattooing.

In the uniquely sensuous and lyrical prose that has already become her trademark, Sarah Hall's remarkable new novel tells the story of Cy Parks, from his childhood years spent in a seaside guest house for co...more
Paperback, 340 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published March 18th 2004)
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Lover Awakened by J.R. WardLover Avenged by J.R. WardDark Lover by J.R. WardLover Mine by J.R. WardLover Unbound by J.R. Ward
tattoos and piercings
72nd out of 281 books — 182 voters
The Panopticon by Jenni FaganThe Liars' Gospel by Naomi AldermanA Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu GuoThe Teleportation Accident by Ned BeaumanThe Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna
Granta Best of Young British Novelists 4
6th out of 20 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

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This is the story of Cy Parks, from his coming of age on the shores of Morecambe Bay in England to his career as a tattoo artist on the boardwalk of Coney Island, New York in the early decades of the twentieth century. It is the story of the three people who would shape his soul, all three somewhat eccentric and flawed, tortured and gifted. His mother, Reeda Parks, runs a hotel for consumptives in Morecambe Bay, where the "soft air" is said to assuage their symptoms, and shows him what it is to...more
Aug 19, 2008 Leslie rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like lists, adjectives, and lists of adjectives
I'm the first person to champion ambitious prose, even when it overreaches. I was absolutely with this book for the first 50 pages (at least through the anecdotal preamble about Cy's mischievous, unorthodox upbringing in a seaside consumptive hotel/abortion clinic). But once Riley is introduced and Cy is ensnared in the seamy underworld of tattooing, seadog villainy, and other tediously familiar treachery, the monomaniacal narrative voice begins to bulldoze the protagonist, wringing from him any...more
What Sarah Hall does well in "The Electric Michelangelo" are descriptions. The images of blood, coughed up from lungs or pulled with a tattoo needle, are vivid enough to make me queasy. Likewise, I can perfectly imagine the characters and their every mannerism, except the main character Cyril whose perspective gives the story. However, after all these carefully constructed visuals I was left wanting more plot. The main action takes many fewer pages than the descriptions and happens so abruptly t...more
This book was terrific - I had very much wanted to read it and it lived up to every expectation I had. Set during the first half of the 20th century, it's about Cy Parks, who grows up in an English seaside resort town and becomes a very good tattoo artist. He emigrates to America, where he plies his trade in Coney Island. There he encounters the enigmatic Grace, who does an equestrian act in one of the park's circuses. Their oddly intimate relationship develops through the medium of her request...more
Nancy B.
I expected this book to be a kind of fluffy story about a tattoo artist and his adoration of a girl, but it turns out that it's really a brilliantly drawn coming of age novel for the art of tattooing, america, and one engaging young man. The girl, who doesn't come in until late, is intriguing and solid, with a feminist bent that is believable and respectable. Sweet!
i did not enjoy this book. i finished it out of obligation; i think i kept wanting it to be better but it just never was. i didn't really care about anyone in this story, though it was a little interesting to learn about early tatooing methods.
[carte vorbita -humanitas:]
Dragos Bucur reuseste o lectura excelenta, ba as spune chiar o interpretare excelenta. Si autoarea mi-a lasat o impresie buna, deoarece a stiut sa vorbeasca frumos si ingenios despre un subiect care imi displace - si anume "arta tatuajului".
Cy o priveste pe Grace drept opera lui de arta, o opera pe care o iubeste. Se indragosteste de ea doar dupa ce Grace isi pierde frumusestea pe care el i-a dat-o.
This is the longest I have stuck with a book for a while, despite its difficulty. It literally took me 10 weeks to read (I'm measuring in weeks because of the whole pregnancy thing; I remember that when I started it, I was about 11 weeks because parts of the book were making me nauseous, and now I'm 21 weeks and the whole thing just made me tired lately). It's not because the book is overly long-it's about 340 pages--it's just that it's very dense. There is almost no dialogue, and the paragraphs...more
The premise of this story was what drew me to it. Seaside resorts, amusement parks, early 20th century life, and body art all appealed to me, but Hall really could have benefited from some good editing. Her writing reminded me of the stuff of 19th century when writers were paid by the word. I often found myself wishing she would get to the point and move the story on. The second half was much more engaging, perhaps because the setting was a faster paced Coney Island, with rich, eccentric charact...more
“War was a peculiar thing…It brought out the best and the worst and the downright incomprehensible in people. It made them slough off the dead skin of reason and deepen the roots of nationality. They became creatures of habit, more so than ever before…War sent people out looking for principles and decency and even fragments of God to be woven up in chain-mail and used as armour against all the bestial suffering and immoral wickedness inflicted by other human beings, those accused of creating a c...more
I am a fan of the photographer Dianne Arbus and although I didn't know it when I put this on my wishlist, there are strong similarities in style. If Arbus had written, it would have been a book like this. There is distance from the characters yet aching intimacy.The atmosphere is so loaded, so heavy so exotic, yet the story so understated. Her writing is original, her phrasing accomplished. Wow! What an awe-some writer -- in the real sense of that word.
James Barker
Tattoists, freakshows, the whole motley alternative scene lovingly described in luxurious prose, the book's title beguiling and hypnotic. The initial setting the bleak seaside resort of Morecambe, a place heavily linked to my own past. When I saw this book I knew I had to have it.

But, to me, it's cobbled together, strangely bland, a stylistic mess. Almost every page has a cute swirl of a hyphen disrupting the text so that it feels you are reading an author's draft notes before they cunningly fit...more
Man, this book is fantastic, and I think the lady that wrote it did so when she was pretty young, in her 20s I believe. I'm not usually a real big fan of novels but this book is great. A really fun read for anyone interested in yesteryear, traditional tattoing, rogue citizens, outsiders, freaks or NYC. This book kind of reminded me of the also-awesome book Geek Love.
I can never praise highly enough for this book! It is so unique, not only the writing itself is impeccable, the subject is almost never touched in the literature. Rich in description and at one point everything seemed to come to me like a bold painting! Very lovely book, shame it didn't win the Man Booker prize!
blah, blah, blah x 1000 and i still don't understand the characters or their motivations. i know an awful lot about the bloody phlegm that was coughed up but each event that should have revealed something about the characters failed to reveal anything meaningful. empty!
Dynamic settings-- seaside amusement parks-- and a beautiful rendering of the history and art of tattoos (you're going to want some ink!) all as a vehicle for an engaging love story. SWOON!
I tried to read this several times and haven't been able to get through it. I wish I could explain why, but perhaps it just isn't my style.
I couldn't get through it! While I thought Hall's writing was very good, it was a bit 'literature class'-centric and the endless descriptions of blood, guts, and all manner of nastiness was not appealing to me. I made it about 3/4 of the way through and the main character had not yet met his muse and so the story still hadn't really taken shape other than his relationship with the eccentric 'master' who molded him. I've reached a point where I don't feel I have to finish every book I pick up and...more
Willem van den Oever
The story of Cyril Parks, a boy from northern British Morecambe, how he discovered the elements of life, loss and tattooing, which take him across the ocean and towards a young woman with a special assignment for him.

Sarah Hall has a way with words, painting with them in a delicate, poetic fashion, leaving behind long sentences and page-long paragraphs. Needless to say, the pacing of her story becomes rather low, despite spanning six decades in three hundred pages.
The Electric Michelangelo’ is...more
After an incredibly long streak of reading great books and enjoying them all, there was bound to be an end to it all. And with this book the end came quickly and severely.

I could not keep up with the amount of times I said to myself that I was not going to pick this up again and abandon it, but then a line of absolute beauty would rise from the page enough to knock me clear on my ass and force me to rethink the whole thing. One of these quotes: "More than baseball and the cooking, more even tha...more
Iso Cambia
"Brooklyn was as hopping crazy as a bucket of painted frogs."


"Riley had once told him that it was not those big titties on a bare arm that offended, not farting ladies, nor a marked face. Tattooing was on the black side, yes, ot because it dealt largely with the rougher working classes, not because it meant that sex and danger and opinion got put about in pictures on people like a rude proclamation.....

Tattooing distresses those it does, lad, because it's as generous as a w...more
Diana Andrei
Michelangelo Electric, un roman captivant si neconventional care s-a numarat printre finalistele prestigiosului Booker Prize 2004, face parte din Colectia Raftul Denisei (foarte faina si ingrijita) si prezinta povestea fascinanta a unui artist tatuator de la inceputul secolului XX cand aceasta meserie era marginalizata si privita cu dezgust.

“Tatuajele puteau fi socante un timp. Dar in cele din urma deveneau componente obisnuite ale anatomiei umane. Oamenii treceau prin viata ca niste cani indelu...more
Sarah Hall's prolific use of words makes this one of those unique reads. This is the story of Cy Parks from age seven to age sixty-six. He spends his early years in his mom's consumptive hotel in Morecambe Bay around the turn of the century. At an early age he becomes apprenticed to a tatoo artist, Eliot Riley, who is an obnoxious and erratic alcoholic. Those years with Riley never get erased from Cy's brain. Cy takes on the title 'Electric Michelangelo' and leaves Morecambe Bay for the U.S. He...more
The strange thing is that I remember not liking it very much but finished it anyway. I just went back and read the Amazon reviews of the books and now I remember - the writing was really beautiful and the book introduced me to a world - a couple, actually - that were completely unfamiliar to me. But it was a sad and dark and disturbing book, and I think that's why I remember not liking it very much.

Cy is a child of a single mother in a small seaside town in England early in the 20th century. His...more
What starts as an imaginative descriptions of a young boy turns into tedious, overly detailed prose of his road into manhood, with hardly any plot to keep it going. Luckily the expectation that all this character development is going to lead to something, anything, finally leads to a energetic downfall of the lead character's love interest in the last third of the book. These final chapters make it all worthwhile but left me wishing the first two-thirds had received better editing.
I picked this book up because I am fascinated with tattoos. I have one and would like more, and I think it's very interesting what drives people to get things permanently etched on their skin. Also, the cover for this book is beautiful, and I'm easily distracted by shiny objects. While I did enjoy it, I feel at times it's over-written. The author clearly has a love affair with words, and while I can't blame her for that, I often found myself skipping ahead to the end of a paragraph or the next p...more
I was intrigued by the allure of a tattoo artist in the heyday of Coney Island. However, after reading over 100 pages, the main character had not even reached Coney Island yet. The prose is beautiful, but I wanted a clearer progression of the plot. The sections were nice to read, almost like a collection of short stories, but this wasn't the type of novel I was looking to read.
I found this book hard-going. The premise was appealing (aimless youth apprenticed into the art of tattoing in a seaside town in the north of England between the wars, migrates to America to start a new life in New York) but the book did not deliver due to the almost total absence of the inner life of the protagonist. It was energetically over-written, but I was *bored* for much of the time. The climax of the novel, such as it was, came too late and was glossed over in favour of a speedy sprint...more
You know the deal with Northeast England? It’s very grey… the sky, the waves, the wind, sometimes even the sand… it’s all grey. And this coast it very beautiful in this colour, it looks sad, beautiful, and mysterious. So, at this seaside town where people frequently come to spend their summers, our protagonist grows up. He is used to death from an early age too, the inn that his mother runs is a haven for people with sickly pulmonary diseases, who come to spend their last days here by the sea.

This is the only book I have ever read that I didn't understand the last line -- not even several days later. I read this book based on a friend's recommendation, and am a little sad I started it. There were certainly aspects of EM that I liked, but overall I am not a fan.
One thing that kept me from liking this book is the writer's style. I just didn't care for it. Hall did a lot of telling without allowing the reader to experience the characters and settings. This telling style kept me from for...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Sarah Hall took a degree in English and Art History at Aberystwyth University, and began to take writing seriously from the age of twenty, first as a poet, several of her poems appearing in poetry magazines, then as a fiction-writer. She took an M Litt in Creative Writing at St Andrew's University and stayed on...more
More about Sarah Hall...
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“People were made up of shit and piss and phlegm and bits and pieces of experience.” 5 likes
“One thing I will say, they often take it better than a man. Pain, that is. Probably the residue of tolerance from when they were all bloody witches and got stoned or burned or drowned for it, eh lad? Never tell your mother I said that, by the way.” 4 likes
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