It’s history. It’s poetry.

August 9, 2008

I was walking down Broadway when an unusual all-text tattoo caught my eye. I stopped to ask about it and learned that it had been applied only the day before at a strange little tattoo parlor on Manhattan’s Fulton Street.

The tattoo’s wearer (owner?), a Brooklynite from Park Slope, explained that the phrase is a quotation, spoken by the character Mr. Antolini in the classic American novel of disaffected youth, The Catcher in the Rye.

“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles.

“You’ll learn from them — if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, 1951

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The Catcher in the Rye
Flickr: chiappone.rebecca’s photostream

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