Ginsberg Would Have Wanted You to Get this Tattoo

By: Betty Noe


Browsing through the blog of the literary journal Paper Darts (a fine publication that I would recommend to anyone—even if only for the top notch staff bios) my eyes hit on a headline that I couldn’t pass-up: Five Roxane Gay quotes we just might tattoo on our biceps. Talk about a hook. That title has everything that a girl could want from an online post: tattoos, Roxane Gay, biceps. The piece itself was equally as interesting, replete with Bad Feminist wisdoms and a number of links to Gay’s many articles outside of her famed book.

This article got me thinking about more than just Queen Roxane and her sage life advice. I asked myself, what literary quotes would actually look good as a tattoo? Pretentious as it may appear, we do live in a world where Gucci Mane had a tricolor ice cream cone tattooed on his face. Therefore, a good quote isn’t the worst thing you could get inked on your body. So, let me make a few light-hearted suggestions about what you should get permanently etched on your skin (and please don’t blame me when your tattoo is inevitably misspelled).

“First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable.”

— Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway is by far Woolf’s greatest novel (A Room of One’s Own doesn’t count because it’s an essay) and it’s difficult to find a passage or a line from the book that isn’t a profound revelation on life, love, and the passage of time. That being said, not everything written in Mrs. Dalloway would make for great body art. I love this quote because, out of context, it could apply to anything you’d like and it’s not immediately recognizable as a Virginia Woolf quote. And if this line is a little too serious for your taste, you could always go with the classic “I prefer men to cauliflowers.”

“Instead of death there was light.”

— Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Part of the human condition is a fear of death, which is what makes Ivan Ilyich so timeless. Tolstoy dissects the fear of the unknown, common between all of us, without sugarcoating it. Ilyich’s long, drawn-out end to this novel comes with this final, uplifting sentiment: Instead of death there was light. Wouldn’t you like to carry these words with you wherever you go?

“The moon has lost her memory.”

— T.S. Eliot, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”

We all have that one friend who’s obsessed with the moon; sometimes we are that one friend. And if you’re that person, this quote is for you. There’s no Do I dare to eat a peach? here. This poem was originally published in Eliot’s Prufrock collection and, in my opinion, it’s the unsung hero of this book (no offense to “Love Song;” it deserves all of the attention it gets). And this one line—although arguably more powerful when read in the context of its stanza—really lends itself to a tattoo.

“Time flows in strange ways on Sundays.”

— Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

While there are whole paragraphs of this book that I would willingly have tattooed on my chest, I understand that not everyone is as enamored with this novel as I am. Therefore, I’ve narrowed my search for a good Haruki Murakami-inspired tattoo down to this single sentence. In 1,157 pages, this book warps time, space, and reality in ways that I can’t summarize in one blog post. However, this one quote is indicative of the familiar surrealism that Murakami so masterfully creates. And he’s right: time does flow in strange ways on Sundays.

“the madman is holy as you my soul are holy!”

— Allen Ginsberg, “Footnote to Howl”

Isn’t it funny how the “Footnote to Howl” has become more famous than “Howl” itself? By comparing the two, however, it’s easy to see why. “Footnote” is pure Ginsberg, the poet at his finest, and it’s the reason I got hooked on his poetry in the first place. In such a racing poem, it’s hard to snatch out a single line that is small enough to make a great tattoo. But this one is my choice. I decided if I’m going to permanently attach great literature to my body, I’d like it to remind me that, “you my soul are holy.”


10 Books I Hate (That You Should Still Read)

By: Betty Noe

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I’ve never been scared of putting down a book that I just don’t like (and yes, that includes books read for class), so when I finish a book it means I’ve had some kind of reaction to it. This means that, when it comes to books I’ve actually read cover to cover, there is no spectrum — I either loved it or hated it. I have no problem with recommending books that I vehemently disliked to my friends. If a book can elicit such strong emotions from its reader, then, in a way, it’s done its job. So here is a list of books that I absolutely hate, and that I think you should probably read. Warning: this list most likely contains a book you love and there will be spoilers.

  1. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

I find with Catcher in the Rye, people either adore this book or they detest it. There simply is no in between. And this has everything to do with the novel’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield. I, for one, can’t stand Holden or what I interpret as his constantly whining tone. Finishing this book was almost unbearable, but I managed it, and I came out the other end hating J.D. Salinger. It took quite a lot of convincing from my sister to get me to read Nine Stories, but I’m glad she put in the work. The two books, Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories, should be read together, because I find that if you love one, you really hate the other.

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

It feels like sacrilege to put a Jane Austen novel on a list of books I hate, but it’s the truth, so I’ll say it. I do not like Sense and Sensibility. The book is quintessential Jane Austen, and Emma Thompson seemed to like it enough to write a screenplay for and star in the 1995 film adaptation, but I just don’t have the patience for this book. I’m a fan of flawed and even unlikeable characters, but the main characters of this novel are more than merely flawed — they’re boring. Most of the novel is spent reading about Marianne weeping over Willoughby and Elinor mourning silently over Edward. But no matter how much I hate this book, any Austen fan should read it, if only to understand Austen’s ability to weave together the lives of so many people so easily.

  1. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

This book, and in fact the whole series, is a virtual what-not-to-do of modern relationships. Think about it: don’t date your stalker, don’t date your stalker who’s ninety years older than you are, don’t date someone who wants to kill you at all times, don’t stay with someone who uses sex as leverage for a marriage proposal. The list goes on from there. These are just a few examples of everything that’s wrong with the relationship at the center of these books, and, while not best for middle schoolers and high schoolers who might be more easily influenced by the story, Twilight has a few good life lessons hidden in its pages if you know how to read critically.

  1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I have had to read this book multiple times for multiple classes, and each time it gets worse. It’s not exactly the un-likeability of the characters that makes this a tough read, it’s how much I don’t care what happens to these characters — not even little Pip or poor, sweet Joe. The worst thing for any book is complete apathy on the part of the reader, and nothing about this book can capture me anymore. But, like all of Dickens’ writing, it’s an important work about the nature and even the cruelty of Victorian society, and it’s important to read at least once, if only to finally understand what people are talking about when they reference “Miss Havisham.”

  1. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

We all know the story, so I won’t worry about spoilers. I have tried so hard to remember the cultural differences between the past and the present, or the fact that Shakespeare had to create a tragic love story in only five acts, every time I try to reread this play. And yet, every time, I hate this play more and more each time I encounter it. I can’t get behind a story about two teenagers who “fall in love” in the span of a night and proceed to get married and kill themselves over their love. To me, this play is less of a tragedy and more of a lesson in stupidity. However, if you want to be dazzled by Shakespeare’s poetic ability and mastery of the sonnet, it’s a worthwhile read.

  1. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I hate this book because I could not sleep for days after reading it. The Lovely Bones is horror by another name. Any book where the narrator is murdered within the first chapters is obviously going to be a little difficult to stomach, but this was still so much worse than I was expecting. I had never become nauseous from a book before I read The Lovely Bones. Still, as difficult as it was to get through, and as much as I never want to read this book again, it brought up a subject that’s very real, no matter how much we might not want to think it is.

  1. The Stand by Stephen King

I absolutely loved the The Stand. Until I made it to the end of this book, it was shaping up to be one of my new favorites. But the ending to this book is a cop-out, and that I can’t forgive. The way King finishes this book feels as if he had run out of all ideas and just wanted this story to be over with. Because I think it’s important to read this book without knowing how it ends, I won’t go into details here. But I will say that it’s cheesy and King could have done better.

  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I expected more from this book, in many different respects. First, I expected more from the story. Here, Wilde had the seed of an incredible tale, with which he could have done so much more. Instead, he strays from the characters to discuss the beauty of a garden (common for the Aesthetic Movement, I know) and he leaves the story relatively untold. Wilde had so many opportunities just in this one novel, I still get angry sometimes when I remember how little he did with it. When first reading this book, I was also disappointed with how little it actually said about homosexuality in the Victorian Era. I had heard all about how The Picture of Dorian Gray was a historical achievement, and a big step for the gay community that had been so repressed in the Victorian Era. But when I read the book, everything that I had come to expect wasn’t there. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that most versions we read today have had the “homoerotic” details edited out, so the statement of the novel is lost as well as the story.

  1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell was an incredibly talented writer. In fact, it’s her writing that makes Gone With the Wind a masterpiece of American fiction. But Mitchell was also a white woman raised in the South in the early part of the twentieth century, so her point of view on racism and classism is incredibly skewed. In fact, Mitchell was ten before she knew that the South had actually lost the Civil War. This might give you some perspective as to why the novel is so sympathetic towards the Confederacy and the “Old South.” However, it’s an important novel to read, if only to read about such an important part of American history from a point of view you may have never been exposed to.

  1. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

I know that Dr. Seuss wrote mostly nonsensical and imaginative books for children, and that Green Eggs and Ham is a harmless children’s classic, but why did he have to pick a color for the eggs and ham that is so reminiscent of food poisoning? It’s my only critique, but it ruins the book for me.