Autobiography of a Tattoo

Norbert Ruebsaat

My Christmas book was Stan Persky's Autobiography of a Tattoo (New Star Books). I read it twice, and then went back and read many parts a third time. It is an exquisite read in which the "art" of autobiography is raised to the level of the best fiction, and fiction's singular right to convey experience is duly questioned. Persky started his writing career as a poet, and he writes here with the poet's eye and ear, even as his mind philosophizes. The book is about Persky's visit to Berlin in 1996, about his literary education as a writer, about his sexual education as a lover, about his relationship with his father, about his love affair with "Dominic" and various other young blond men, about his readings in philosophy—especially Plato, his thoughts on teaching in a democracy and his attitudes to porn images and texts. Mostly it is about filial and erotic desire. Persky claims that for the majority of readers, he is "a writer who insists that homo be included in the world," and for homo readers he is "a homo writer who insists that the world be included." Autobiography of a Tattoo is life writing at its most spectacular. Persky has written that "memory without fiction is incomprehensible"; to which I'd like to add the caveat, "fiction without memory is boring." I was never bored reading Autobiography of a Tattoo—except once, when Persky engaged in long-winded narrative analyses of his two Berlin bar friends, Rosa and Mark—and even then I kept reading.

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Norbert Ruebsaat

Norbert Ruebsaat has written many articles for Geist. He lived in Vancouver and taught at Simon Fraser University.


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