Jitterbug Perfume Tattoo, or: a lot of words about words

Au Revoir, Empty Back

It was my darling cousins Kirsten and Adrian who first foisted Tom Robbins books on my sister and me. I cannot remember which one I read first – possibly it was Jitterbug Perfume – but I know that I still have a couple on my bookshelf and it was … too too long ago for me to remember exactly. I have had these books for years now. I should probably return them.

Either way, Jitterbug Perfume’s tale of Alobar and Kudra’s passionate love affair and their quest for immortality intrigued me. When I think back on the book the mental image is humid and fragrant, richly coloured, and completely vague. I remember snippets, mental images of the randy goat-god Pan, of twisting smoke, of a New Orleans’ accent, small jewelled perfume bottles, and of mud.
What? They’re mental images. I can’t explain them. I don’t know where the mud or twisting smoke come from. But there they are.

Last night I tore my house apart (not really, I’m not much for heavy duty demolition) but I don’t seem to have a copy in my possession (horror!) and I know there are two knocking about in my family. I held the first copy ransom, my sister eventually purchasing me my own as a present, which I believe I then promptly lent out. To whom? I have no idea. This is very frustrating.
Either way, the Wikipedia entry reminded me of the prominence of beets, of the four distinct storylines, and of the Bandaloop Doctors. These things my mind has chosen to forget.

The themes ribbon-ing through Jitterbug Perfume include striving for immortality, the meaning behind the sense of smell, individual expression, self-reliance, sex, love, and religion.

But above all, it was one little sentence. A sentence which resonated with me, which I have remembered word for word from the moment I read and reread it, even read it out loud, was ultimately the one I chose to have inscribed across my back.

A break when I felt faint

Uncertain, intrepid, possibly immortal, decidedly in love.

Jitterbug Perfume is not my favourite book (that would be Lolita, or Rebecca, or Middlesex), and Tom Robbins is not my favourite author (that would be Stephen Fry or Bill Bryson) but that sentence, those seven words, are my favourite.

I love the cadence, the rhythm, to me they are inestimably evocative. Truthfully, if it came down to lyrical quality and the beauty of words they come second to the first 5 paragraphs of Lolita, but that would be too too long for a tattoo.


It means more to me than a pure reverence of the written word. A favourite quote can be a highly personal thing, and while I hate to burden ink in skin with too much symbolism, I cannot avoid the fact that, to me, these words are a way of looking at life.

Be uncertain, be wary, but don’t let that hold you back. To fall upon a cushion of cliché, to feel the fear and do it anyway. Be intrepid. Embrace life as though you may be immortal, do everything but don’t rush through life. And most of all, be in love. With yourself, with life, with the small things, and the big. Robbins is referring to the passionate centuries long love affair of Alobar and Kudra, but I see it as so so so much more.


The font? I cannot remember. It is free, from dafont.com, and all I can say about it really is “Oo, pretty!”.
I chose the unusual spacing because I didn’t want any of the sentiment broken with the end of a line. And then, the second line was too short. Which is why I added the decoration.
Oo. Pretty.

And so my darling Jitterbug tattoo joins my others:

Careful Mum, you’ll strain your eyes rolling them that hard.



  1. Crumble · June 16, 2010

    Wow, that is AMAZING! Makes me want to run out and get mine done tomorrow. Congrats!

  2. Kat · June 16, 2010

    Absolutely amazing, I love it. 🙂 Sadly, I don't have any amazing quote choices, but there might be a few lyrics along the line. 🙂

  3. bryan · June 17, 2010

    it's gorgeous, sarah. i've been on a Robbins kick for the last year. i read jitterbug maybe five years ago and it remains my favourite (i totally just spelled that with a "u" cause it just seemed right) book. it took me a while to come back to his stuff because i didn't want to ruin jitterbug in any way. i think Robbins is a wordsmith. every sentence is crafted. excellent choice…

  4. Sarah-Rose · June 17, 2010

    Crumble – thank you!Kat – quotes from books are my lyrics – to each their own. Thank you. I adore it too.Bryan – ha! I love the bit with the u. It does seem right. I'm glad other people love Jitterbug Perfume. I've not read many other Robbins books – perhaps because I'm partly expecting them to live up to Jitterbug! shame on me.

  5. Ms. Monet · June 30, 2010

    I love this tattoo! I am particularly fond of the first few lines about the beets.

  6. Zfnx 78 · February 13, 2012

    Beautiful tat! The book was just given to me for a birthday present and I'm enraptured. I love that you tattooed that quote on your back! I hope you don't mind, I pinned your photo on to my Pinterest site: http://pinterest.com/pin/123426846007489537/ However, if you do mind, I would certainly take it down. Cheers!

  7. Sarah-Rose · February 15, 2012

    Hi there, I don't mind at all. Thanks.

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