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February 22, 2011

Peter Trachtenberg's _7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh_--1998, U.S.


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"I’ve never been tattooed with anybody’s name. I doubt I ever will be. It would seem like a way of tempting fate, which is most dangerous when it appears tame, though maybe what I’m really thinking of is my own character. " -From 7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh by Peter Trachtenberg (1998)

Students, using the direction I provided in some handouts I gave you previously, please type your entry-ticket discussion questions for this reading in the comment box below. These questions will be . . .

. . . fair game for the midterm and final exam. In addition to submitting the question to English-blog.com, the question must also be submitted to Turnitin.com. You should also have it written in your Course Journal (collected at midterm and at the final), and have a typed, printed hardcopy to bring with you to class on the day the work is discussed (see syllabus). I will not accept late submissions so mind the deadlines.

Posted by lhobbs at February 22, 2011 12:59 PM

Readers' Comments:

Which of Peter’s 7 tattoos can be considering the weakest? I notice how much more emotional and intense his stories get the more we get into the book. And for each tattoo, he has a deep story to them, so what makes his tattoo the weakest? The story itself? The reason why he gets it? Or the overall emotional he has for it when he gets it?

Posted by: John Walker at February 25, 2011 11:12 AM

Throughout Peter Trachtenberg’s 7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh, the author writes of his failed relationships, with his parents, with women, with friends, even with religion (not just the Jewish religion into which he was born, but also Buddhism). As the memoirs progress, the text centers more and more on the author’s regrets, and his attempts to make apologies to those he feels he wronged in his failed relationships. The author even admits to lying about the nature of the falling angel tattoo on his back, about claiming that it was in memory of his mother, who died well after he got the tattoo. Does the meaning of a tattoo change over time? If so, how can such a change in meaning alter the perception of the person with the tattoo in regards to their own life?

Posted by: Douglas Phillips at February 25, 2011 12:55 PM

Throughout the whole of the book, Peter Trachtenberg takes the reader through a journey of the human condition and the symbols he’s acquired to mark the checkpoints of the journey: death, sacrilege, primitivism, rebellion, atonement, sexuality, and downfall. How does every person, tattooed or not, relate to the meanings of Trachtenberg’s tattoos? Do his seven tattoos tell a single story that ultimately creates a unified collection of human suffering?

Posted by: Manda Butler at February 25, 2011 04:27 PM

Trachtenberg has a lot of issues with religion: these are raised in Chapter 2, "I acquire a wound," where he gets a Christian stigmata tattooed on himself, and again in Chapter 3, reflected in his feelings towards Buddy, the missionary. Does Trachtenberg view tattooing as more than cathartic, as being spiritual in some way? How do his tattoos denote his progress on a spiritual journey, and do you think he evolves spiritually throughout the memoir?

Posted by: Greg Robinson at February 28, 2011 01:07 PM

From 7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh, by Peter Trachtenberg:

“I would prefer to simply be extinguished, to silence the muttering of self, the thing that preens and craves and hungers and tells itself stories in order to live.” (262)

Peter Trachtenberg’s unique perspective on life also includes his perspective on death. Do the “stories” he mentions in the quote refer to tattoos? If so, based on this quote, does Trachtenberg see his tattoos as a burden? Support your answer.

Posted by: Manda Butler at February 28, 2011 04:56 PM

Emmanuel Cruz
Dr. Hobbs
ENG340
March 02, 2011
Discussion Question
“You want to know what happiness is? I’ll tell you: Father dies, son dies, grandson dies. That’s happiness.”(45).
Peter Trachtenberg is a revolutionary critic who depicts his sorrow and hatred with his writing. Trachtenberg’s ideology, however, does not necessarily dispute established rules. A Memoir in the Flesh is a great example that illustrates the previous comment. Trachtenberg’s second chapter explicitly portrays his sadness, which stems from his life experiences. Trachtenberg seems to be emotionally affected by his childhood and religious beliefs, which were not good experiences at all. Trachtenberg says, “My parents had no optimism. None. I remember telling them once that all I wanted from life was to be happy. It’s one of the last times I remember us sitting together. . .” (44). His words are not selfish—they illustrate a desire that is yearned for by most human beings. Trachtenberg’s desire is not fulfilled by any means and that is why he goes on hatred mode. He says, Enslaved in Egypt, exiled in Babylon, banished from England, tortured in Spain, lynched in Russia…” (43). He goes on for a while with his description—a portrayal that exemplifies his emotional distress. This emotional discomfort is the result of his religious background. His comments, however, cannot possibly change history. Therefore, his revolutionary heart is only being tortured by his madness because there is not a possible solution to the problem he faces. Should Trachtenberg stop whining about his life or is he excused to do so because of the circumstances? Will he ever accomplish anything by doing so?

Posted by: Emmanuel Cruz at February 28, 2011 08:47 PM

In class, the stigma attached to tattoos has come up with many presentations and readings. In Trachtenberg’s Seven Tattoos, he says that: “From the very beginning tattoos were associated with wrongdoing” (163). In Taylor’s presentation, she mentioned that the percentage of people with tattoos is now over 40, showing that this stigma has changed. As the percentage reaches closer to 100, do you think that more tattoos will represent negatives or become associated more so with wrongdoings again? Could they become a symbol that lacks originality or will the designs continue to become more elaborate and meaningful?

Posted by: Meghan Donovan at March 1, 2011 09:25 PM

In 7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh, Peter Trachtenberg is a Jewish male who for a short time practices Buddhism and eventually turns to Christianity. How does religion influence all of Peter’s actions?

Posted by: William Kopnek at March 1, 2011 10:19 PM

Discussion Question: 7 Tattoos by Peter Trachtenber
On page 132, Peter’s father tells him that they should have burned down the ROTC building in Kent State sooner. It is after this that Peter says, “I tell myself that maybe one time he was speaking from the heart of his belief.” In this quote, Peter introduces the idea of speaking from the heart of your belief. Do you think that Peter ever speaks from the heart of his belief? Or do you feel that his beliefs are often influenced by his rebellion against his parents and the constraints of society?

Posted by: Tara McLoughlin at March 1, 2011 10:56 PM

“I’ve never been tattooed with anybody’s name. I doubt I ever will be. It would seem like a way of tempting fate, which is most dangerous when it appears tame. . . The closest I ever came was getting a copy of a girlfriend’s tattoo. I got it less out of hope than out of pessimism (page 187).”
Trachtenberg here seems to be drawing comparisons to the utterly eternalness of tattoos and the relative ease of relationships to end. Based on his relationships he describes in this chapter, does his tattoo come more out of romanticism or the ‘pessimism’ he admits to?

Posted by: Chad W. at March 1, 2011 11:13 PM

Amanda Arce
English 340
Entry ticket

“Nothing breaks down social, moral, and legal boundaries faster than bodies that are thought to be misbehaving.”
The narrator uses this quote when mentioning a guy who has gages in his ear and claims that it sexually arousals him. As the reader it is evident that the narrator’s character speaks his mind and this is captured in many of his quotes and actions throughout the novel. Looking back at the various tattoos the narrator has, and the meanings behind them, along with his beliefs, would you say he feels that tattooing falls into this category of “misbehaving”? If so, how would this distort the narrator’s meanings of tattoos? Would you say it caters to his whole rebellious persona? If you feel his beliefs on tattooing does not correlate to his quote of “misbehaving”, provide explanations within the text.

Posted by: amanda arce at March 2, 2011 12:02 PM

Amanda Arce
English 340
Entry ticket

“Nothing breaks down social, moral, and legal boundaries faster than bodies that are thought to be misbehaving.”
The narrator uses this quote when mentioning a guy who has gages in his ear and claims that it sexually arousals him. As the reader it is evident that the narrator’s character speaks his mind and this is captured in many of his quotes and actions throughout the novel. Looking back at the various tattoos the narrator has, and the meanings behind them, along with his beliefs, would you say he feels that tattooing falls into this category of “misbehaving”? If so, how would this distort the narrator’s meanings of tattoos? Would you say it caters to his whole rebellious persona? If you feel his beliefs on tattooing does not correlate to his quote of “misbehaving”, provide explanations within the text.

Posted by: amanda arce at March 2, 2011 12:03 PM

From 7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh, by Peter Trachteneberg:

“A lot of tattooists seem to secretly crave legitimacy and rapprochement.” (250)

This was mentioned after Trachtenberg shows his mother some of his tattoos, presenting a new outlook on tattooists. Do you agree with Trachtenberg’s statement and do you think that Trachtenberg himself craved this as well?

Posted by: Nicole Natoli at March 2, 2011 12:16 PM

“My new acquaintances told me that I was unlikely to stay alive without a belief in some sort of deity, something I could appeal to.” – Pg. 61
Could the protagonist benefit from a belief in a higher power or would taking up that new belief only serve to undermine the ideas that his tattoos embody? Explain.

Posted by: Jamison Whitney at March 2, 2011 02:02 PM

Patricia Pothier
ENG 340
Dr. Hobbs
3/2/11

In chapter three Trachtenberg writes, “… while she worked on me, the tattoo gun connecting us with its thread of current and distress.” He is referencing to a story that Slam, the tattooist, is telling him. What does this line tell us about Trachtenberg’s feeling about the connection between a tattoo artist and the tattoo receiver? Use examples from the text to support your answer.

Posted by: patricia pothier at March 2, 2011 02:08 PM

Natasha Witter
March 2, 2011
ENG 340
Tattoos in Literature
Dr.Hobbs

“All in all, I think the image was a good choice since I conceived the tattoo as a mark of penance” (150)
From the first chapter to now there is a clear progression of maturity from the author in both his thought process and the meaning behind his tattoos. In this chapter the author decides to get a tattoo of the Archangel Michael, better known as the devil on his left shoulder blade as a mark of penace. The name of the fifth chapter is I Do the Right Thing, do you think the chapter title helps us to see his Archangel Michael tattoo in a positive light?

Posted by: Natasha Witter at March 2, 2011 02:13 PM

“If you go to a tattooist and ask him for a tribal piece, what you’ll get will be an imitation of a Bornean, that is to say a Dayak, tattoo. The piece I have on my collarbone-it looks kind of likea set of antlers-is actually adapted from an Iban Dayak pattern from Sarawak, in North Borneo. It was my first tattoo. I’d gotten it a years or so before I went over, and I wanted to see its original, so to speak.” (7 Seven, pg. 4)
-Peter Trachtenberg, 7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh

What does this quote say about the transition of tattoos around the world? Does Trachtenberg think that you should only get tattoos in their “native” land? What does this quote expose about post-colonial expansion of native customs into European/American environs? What do you think about the adaptation of aboriginal customs into Western culture? Is this mostly a positive experience or does it lead to stereotyping (such as in Typee or Moby Dick)?

Posted by: JH Pless at March 2, 2011 02:15 PM

Dana Jennings
Dr. Hobbs
ENG-340
3/2/11
7 Tattoos: Chapter 4
In “I Keep the Red Flag Flying,” the author sees an exhibit in SoHo with Spider Webb that includes a collection of tattooed fetuses. “Spider Webb had had a show at a SoHo gallery—it was one of the first times tattoos had crashed into the precincts of fine art—in which the principal object on display was a collection of tattooed human fetuses. I remember watching them floating in their tanks, pale, big-headed, and precisely calligraphed, and experiencing a rare tremor of shock” (Trachtenberg 117). His revulsion seems to break through his nonchalance, but not beyond his level of apathy. Does this imply that he secretly admires the artwork for art’s sake, or that he is a sick individual?

Posted by: dana jennings at March 2, 2011 02:19 PM

Question for Chapter 4 Section 13

“That’s it. I just wanted to hurt him, the way all teenaged boys want to hurt their fathers: Take that, asshole! This is for whatever” This quote is from the fourth chapter in Trachtenberg’s book after he confronts his father about their political differences. Do you think that Trachtenberg’s defiance and resentment of his father is commonplace amongst the youth like he claims it is or do you think that it’s a byproduct of his father’s emotional detachment from Trachtenberg and his mother?

Posted by: mathew rodgers at March 2, 2011 02:20 PM

Katie Ganning
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 340
2 March 2011
1. “A tattoo, I’ve always believed, is a visual reminder of pain, which has the tendency to be forgotten quickly and so sometimes require documentation.” (Trachtenburg 37) How does this passage Peter states relate to everyday living? How would one think of a tattoo being a scar over an ink portrait?

Posted by: Katie Ganning at March 2, 2011 02:24 PM

“For a long time I used heroin religiously. I don’t just mean regularly. I used to believe that the heroin high was the closest a living person could ever get to heaven; it provided that same gliding, disembodied bliss, that same magnanimous indifference to the degrading needs for chili dogs and bowel movements. Every time I got off, I felt a ping of subconscious recognition, a fit between that chastely voluptuous junk high and my buried memories of hymns, sermons and Sunday school lessons.” What does this quote say about the author and his experiences with religion? Could there be an argument made that his religion shifted to tattoos? Support your answer with excerpts from the text.

Posted by: Meahgan Jameyson at March 2, 2011 02:27 PM

“Amazing Grace’?” Sheila asked. I nodded. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that save a wretch like me.” Something was changing in the room… just as we got to the last line, the beeping became a prolonged trill.” (261)

Peter spent the majority of his life protesting his faith and his family. This quotation illustrates how he knew he would miss his mother, and as a result he chose to sing a Christian hymn about forgiveness and redemption. Why would Peter have chosen this song as his last song to sing to his dying mother? Has Peter converted back to the Christian faith or is he just trying to comfort his mom? Use clear examples from the text as evidence for your answer.

Posted by: eric dirth at March 2, 2011 03:28 PM

“With a few Changes, we could have been enacting the opening scene from a noir thriller of the 1940’s: the sailor and his girl on the night before he ships out for the Pacific…”(187)

In this chapter we are introduced to the relationship between the narrator and Tara. He begins to describe this relationship by comparing it to a tragic story set in the 1940’s of a doomed couple. Why does he choose this era? Does this era hold an ideal of romance and ironic love that the relationship between Tara and himself might have flourished in?

Posted by: Taylor Leonard at March 4, 2011 01:38 AM

Natasha Witter
March 4, 2011
ENG 340
Tattoos in Literature
Chapter 6
“I got it less out of hope than out of pessimism, for the same reason I break my neck looking for souvenirs when I’m leaving a place I love and suspect I won’t be visiting again.”
In this chapter the author takes us through the journey of his sixth tattoo, a replica of a tattoo his girlfriend at the time had. In comparison to his previous tattoos this tattoo essentially holds no real emotional value to him. Although the author is pessimistic of his relationship with his former girlfriend he still gets a permanent reminder of their time together, do you think the author was truly pessimistic or was this a bold step in a positive move in his life? Use examples from the text to explain your answer.

Posted by: Natasha Witter at March 4, 2011 01:22 PM

“In retrospect I realize that its all about monotheism: “ye shall have no other God before me.” Ye shall pay no attention to anything except Myself or My stand-in, even if He’s speaking a dead language.” How does this quote relate to the quote later stated by Trachtenberg: “But the Ngaju are animists. They’ve got deities to spare, a little god curled up in every fallen leaf, enthroned in every hole in the ground.” How does the relation between these two quotes and the tone which the narrator uses to deliver such portray for the reader the opinion of Trachtenberg on religion? How does this relate to his “religious” collecting of tattoos? Use support from the text to defend your answer.

Posted by: Meahgan Jameyson at March 4, 2011 02:18 PM

“Because a tattoo is a sign of something that is absent or invisible. And what is more absent, less visible than the dead?” page 16.
Peter Trachtenburg makes this statement about how tattoos are something that represent something you can’t see. He argues that in most cases, tattoos represent the dead. Do you agree with him? Do you think that tattoos are a visible representation of something one cannot see?

Posted by: Sarah Buckner at March 4, 2011 02:28 PM

Chapter 5: "Specifically, there were three people whom I'd used badly and had to make some restitution to: my mother, my father, and a woman named Catherine...". How did Trachtenberg make restitution to each of these individuals? Do you think, in cases where he made amends, he did a fair and worthy job of making restituion? Why does Trachtenberg think he needs to make amends to his mother, seeing as how his reason for being a drug addict is his mother?

Posted by: Prewitt Roberts at March 5, 2011 04:34 PM

How does Trachtenberg compare to the arechetypal American traveler that he describes at the beginning of Chapter Three? Do you feel that he is deserving of the differences with which he regards himself, or do you feel that his separation from the “select group of citizens…dressed like three year olds” is based purely on his own arrogant nature?

Posted by: Lindsay Renner at March 16, 2011 04:05 PM

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*NOTE* The deadline for this particular assignment has now passed. Any comments listed below are *ONLY* for the reposting of comments that I specifically asked to be revised or are ones from non-student posters. Any 'student' posts below that missed the assignment deadline will not get credit for the assignment.


~ Dr. Hobbs

Posted by: Dr. Hobbs at March 21, 2011 01:30 PM

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