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Ineradicable Stain: A Story Told Through Tattooed Words


Begun in 2003, this must be old news to many, but it’s new to me. A writer named Shelley Jackson (I suspect she’s a quirky individual: the bio on her web site claims she was “extracted from the bum leg of a water buffalo in 1963 in the Philippines”) launched a project called Skin in 2003. The aim? To publish a story, one word at a time, using the media of ink on skin. One word per participant. 2095 volunteers. The guidelines for the project state:

Each participant must agree to have one word of this story tattooed upon his or her body. The text will be published nowhere else, and the author will not permit it to be summarized, quoted, described, set to music, or adapted for film, theater, television or any other medium. The full text will be known only to participants. In the event that insufficient participants come forward to complete the first and only edition of the story within the author’s lifetime, the incomplete version will be considered definitive.

The “Skin status report” has not been updated since 2010, so it’s unclear whether the project is still moving forward. Latest update reads: “Current status: in process, with a focus on mailing stories to participants who have sent in documentation of their completed tattoos.” To date, over 550 people have voluntarily had one of Jackson’s words permanently inked upon their body.

Prior to Skin, Jackson was best known for her e-book, Patchwork Girl, called a hyper-text reworking of the Frankenstein myth. She has published two books for adults – The Melancholy of Anatomy was released in 2002, and Half Life in 2006 – and two children’s books, called The Old Woman and the Wave, and Sophia, The Alchemist’s Dog.

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Beth Carswell

About Beth Carswell

I've been reading, selling, researching, loving and writing about books with AbeBooks since 2000.

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