Since I've been focusing on vintage fairgrounds/travelling fairs and sideshows as inspiration for my tattooed lady project, I've been reading some great books to get me in the mood!
There's nothing I like more than being transported to another time and place through a good book, here's some of the best ones I've read so far...
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, has been a bestseller for some time now, and there's plans to make it into a film. The story is about a magical circus that only opens between dusk and dawn and is filled with fantastical characters and settings; the audience are treated to many tents instead of just the one and each tent houses an individual fabulous spectacle. The novel is filled with beautiful descriptions of decadent costumes colours and ornament which I really enjoyed and the imaginative ideas behind each entertainment was impressive. I found the love story a bit tepid and the fact there was no real threat meant the story lacked any bite or danger, but it did conjour up the theatrical world of the circus and that was what I wanted!
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury was a different kettle of fish entirely. A book of short science fiction stories held together by the idea that each one appears as a tattoo which comes to life at night and all reside upon the body of the Illustrated Man. I found this one pretty hard going, I'm not used to sci fi books but I was willing to give it a go, however after the sixth story featuring a rocket, a human settlement on a different planet and the pervading feeling that we're all doomed by our own evolution I'd had enough. What I did like was the premise; that the man had been working in a sideshow and decided to earn his keep as a tattooed exhibit. Unknown to him, he was illustrated on by a witch, who marked him with tattoos which told tales of the future and cursed him to never settle in one place too long so unnerving is the art work once witnessed. I really liked how the tattoos equated to stories as that is something I am investigating in my own project, and it is an imaginative take on the traditional story telling of the tattooed man or woman.
The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall is a book I read years ago but decided to re-examine due to it's perfectly suited subject matter: This novel follows young Cyril Parks as he evolves from awkward adolescent to apprentice of Morcambe's formiddalbe yet hugley talented tattoo artist Elliot Riley. Beginning in the 1900's during the travelling fair's golden age this story focuses on the Cyril's relationship with a mysterious young woman who commissions him to tattoo her entire body with eyes. The morbid thrill of following his progression with both relationship and needle is fascinating. Plus the gritty and realistic depiction of both the magic of the sideshow and the darkness behind the scenes is powerfully evocative. It is a real inspirational read and well researched. Perfect for the vintage tattoo inspired project I am working on!