Trachtenberg, Peter 1953–

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Trachtenberg, Peter 1953–


Born February 4, 1953; married Mary Gaitskill (a writer).


Home—NY. Agent—Kathleen Anderson, Anderson Literary Management, 12 W. 19th St., 2nd Fl., New York, NY 10011.




Nelson Algren Award for short fiction, 1984.


The Casanova Complex: Compulsive Lovers and Their Women, Poseidon Press (New York, NY), 1988.

7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh, Crown (New York, NY), 1997.

The Book of Calamities: Five Questions about Suffering and Its Meaning, Little (New York, NY), 2008.

Contributor to periodicals, including Harper's, Bomb, New York Times Travel Magazine, O, the Oprah Magazine, Bidoun, and the New Yorker.


In 1997 Peter Trachtenberg, a freelance writer, wrote a personal account called 7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh. The book deals with the author's life and his careening lifestyle choices. Writing in a style somewhere between that of an amateur anthropologist and a religious pilgrim searching for truths, Trachtenberg shares the various paths he took in his life as described through each of the seven tattoos he has on his body. The first tattoo he received was inspired by the indigenous Dayak peoples of Borneo who have a notable culture including tattoo arts. The author traveled to the large Southeast Asian island and discusses his experiences with the people there, including his involvement in a funeral ceremony. He also gives the meanings of and reasons for getting his other tattoos, explaining that the tattoos memorialize various people, places, and states of mind throughout his life.

In addition to tattoos and travel, the author talks about the conflicts he had with his father, an Austrian socialist who left Vienna in the 1920s, and ultimately the death of both of his parents to cancer. Trachtenberg also writes about his drug usage, ranging from heroin to hard liquor; his relationships, which tended to end badly; and religion, looking into his Jewish background and dabbling with Catholicism and Zen Buddhism.

Thomas Gaughan, reviewing the memoir in Booklist, found the book "very strange" and "insightful, funny, tragic, and revolting," and he remarked that the account "is likely to be celebrated in the urban literary world." Margot Mifflin, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called the memoir "meaty," adding that Trachtenberg's application "of tattoos as episodic flash cards is marvelously evocative." A contributor to Publishers Weekly mentioned that Trachtenberg "writes movingly of his strained relationship with his testy father." The same contributor commented that after writing this "unsparing self-portrait," Trachtenberg "is a writer to watch."



Trachtenberg, Peter, 7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh, Crown (New York, NY), 1997.


Booklist, March 15, 1997, Thomas Gaughan, review of 7 Tattoos, p. 1209.

Chicago, August 1, 1984, "The Nelson Algren Award," p. 117; October 1, 1984, Christene Newman, "The Winner," p. 257.

Entertainment Weekly, May 9, 1997, Margot Mifflin, review of 7 Tattoos, p. 76; August 21, 1998, review of 7 Tattoos, p. 116.

Library Journal, April 15, 1997, review of 7 Tattoos, p. 82.

New York Times Book Review, March 19, 2006, Madhu Puri, "Contributors."

Publishers Weekly, February 10, 1997, review of 7 Tattoos, p. 71.

Quill and Quire, July 1, 1997, review of 7 Tattoos, p. 36.

Virginia Quarterly Review, December 22, 1998, review of 7 Tattoos, p. 19.


Red Room, (June 18, 2008), author profile.