Synopses & Reviews
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, Tao Lin, 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.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"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
"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
About the Author
Isaac Fitzgerald is co-owner of The Rumpus and books editor at BuzzFeed. 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.