Skin and Moomin

This is one of those ‘odd where the web can take you’ bits. Let’s trace it as it happened. Brother Ray was talking about the tattoo he’s getting. Quinn responded with a mention of Shelley Jackson’s ‘skin’ project. So I went off and googled that, and got skin. Basically, Ms. Jackson is writing a book […]

This is one of those ‘odd where the web can take you’ bits.

Let’s trace it as it happened.

Brother Ray was talking about the tattoo he’s getting.

Quinn responded with a mention of Shelley Jackson’s ‘skin’ project.

So I went off and googled that, and got skin.

Basically, Ms. Jackson is writing a book on living people. You agree to do it, sign a release, get assigned a word (Not of your own choosing). You tattoo it somewhere on your body, anywhere. You send her a photo of it (and another of yourself).

It’s a bizarre artistic statement. I’m not entirely sure I understand it yet. She states that:

participants will be known as “words”. They are not understood as carriers or agents of the texts they bear, but as its embodiments.

I don’t know. It’s sort of pretentious, sort of performance art by proxy, sort of a god complex. I’d like to talk to the woman about it, hear in her own words what she thinks and feels about this.

But the idea of giving a part of my body to someone in a permanent way has always appealed to me. This is why I love name tattoos. This is why I love the image of a tattoo that contains someone’s blood or ashes. The idea percolated out of my subconscious in Wanton.

I have been tattooed without a drawing in advance. Eddy Deutsche did the octopus tattoo on my left arm that way, just drew it on and then tattooed it. I’ve offered the same chance to my friend Tricia but that way of working isn’t for her.

I’m not sure what it is, why it appeals to me. I’m a fairly controlled, controlling person in life and sexually; I prefer a dominant role in bed, and I tend to like things just so in my surroundings. Yet in some context I like the feeling of saying, you’re the expert, you’re in charge. One of the greatest meals I’ve ever had was in a restaurant in Kehei, Maui. It was a tasting menu for four called “The leap of faith”. The chef made each course for each person a unique item, not on the menu, not the same as anyone else’s. Open your mouth and close your eyes, he was saying. I’ll take it from here.

So I sent email to Ms. Jackson to still if she’s till taking people to be her ‘words’.

Hey, I could have wound up with a Jimmy the Corn Man tattoo. And that just would have meant free tacos.

This leads us to the next step in this ‘where the web can take you’ chain.

While browsing Ms. Jackson’s web site, I wandered into her tour journal. Now, like any journal, it’s interesting enough; writers journals are sometimes the most interesting of all, and sometimes not. But in this case I never actually got to the reading because the first thing that came up was this picture.

Now, in all likelihood this will mean nothing to you. You’ll say ‘ugly little toy’.

But I say, no, that’s Little My.

Does anyone in the USA know who Tove Jansson is? Who Moomintroll is?

I dunno. I dunno if our kids are reading these. I suspect not.

Forgive me a minute here. This is childhood reminiscence. These books were some of my favorite weird whimsical fantasy stories when I was a young reader. They’re a weird, surreal story about creatures called “Moomins”. They have quasi-fantastic adventures and encounter bizarre creatures. They’re something almost hallucinatory about the books and the stories, and yet they’re truly kids stories.

Finn Family Moomintroll was the first. There are many, I don’t think I ever read them all.

These books were incredibly important to me when I was a child. So finding the above image absolutely delighted me.

There are several reasons why. One is that I knew this character on sight; another is that it never occurred to me that there might me Moomin action figures (I have a horrible weakness for the action figures; as I type this, Jay and Silent Bob, the cast of Farscape, Doctor Evil, and Clair Redfield from Resident Evil are all looking at me, as are Randy and Globey from Pee Wee’s Playhouse; that’s at work, at home I have about 20 more including a Jesus action figure holding hands with John Wayne Gacy). So another reason that this particular figure was important was that this characters is, as far as I know, Tove Jansson’s alter ego; she wrote herself and her lover Tuulikki Pietila into the book as characters (Little My and Tooticky). So this wasn’t just Little My, it’s also in effect an action figure of Tove herself.

I doubt that anyone reading this, with the exception of my mother, will grasp why I’m so pleased with this. I can just blame it on my years of drug abuse, I guess, but the fact is, I adore children’s books and still carry with me much of what I read as a child and young adult. Mom was a life-long bookstore lady and book nut, so we were always exposed to a strange array of books our peers had never seen or heard of. Mom had The Hobbit when it first came out. She brought home an obscure British young adult author named John Christopher who’s never really caught on here but wrote truly great young-adult sci-fi (The Tripods). She’s still bringing my kids weird things she digs up. So things like this, like Moomintroll, are not just childhood, but also the birth of me the reader, me the writer. It’s all wired deep inside.

And yes, I just had to go order these. Because how can you live another day without a Hemulen action figure? Oh, and I might add – Hemulen wore a MUG (Men’s Unbifurcated Garment). Well, either that or he was a cross-dresser. I can’t quite decide.

So Ray’s blog to Shelly Jackson’s Skin to Moomintroll. It’s just that easy.

0 thoughts on “Skin and Moomin”

  1. Okay, hon. I just bought my son the first book, “Finn Family Moomintroll.” You know my oldest girl has you to thank for her much loved collection of Lemony Snicketts’ books…


  2. Hiya,

    Found this via google when I was trying to find other people ith moomin tattoos.

    I’m from New Zealand. It always fascinates me that everyone who had moomins as a kid always has a really strong connection with the books as adults.

    I have a tattoo of a moomin on my thigh – I sent a picture to Tove Janssen and she really liked it.

    I want to get more but I want to see other peoples for inspiration.

    The Groke and hattifatteners are my favourites.


  3. Wow…im off to get 3 Moomin tattoos in 6 weeks. 2 on my back and one on my upper left arm..can’t wait.
    Still read the books and recieved my pre-order of the 3rd edition comic strip book today!
    Would love to see images of anyone with a moomin tattoo.

    P.S i have the hemulen kubrick along with the rest :p

    Then again…i have tooo much moomin stuff…seriously

  4. That rules, dave! Love it!

    Just let the artist know the pupils need fixing, they’re good about that sorta thing, fixing a minor issue later.

  5. Ok, i have more moomin tattoos i im going in next saturday for more…and might get some shading on the one i already have. The boat looks a little boring inside.

  6. Cool.Loved Moomins as a kid and still love them.Introduced my son to them.He kills himself laughing when Thingummy (or is it Bob?) says “Reautiful red booby” ! I am going to be getting a Moomin tat on my thigh.Moomintroll on the wave.Just such a happy pic !

  7. I am so glad kids still get who Moomintroll is. I describe things all the time as be ing ‘like a character from Moomintroll’ and it delights me when my kids understand.

    By all means, send me a pic when you get the tattoo!

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