TATTOO MACHINE by Jeff Johnson


Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink
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If you like permanent body art, welcome aboard. If you’re scared of needles, run away.

These days, with a tattoo parlor in nearly every suburban mall, as well as the success of the Discovery Channel’s L.A. Ink, among other reality-TV shows, body art is just about as common and widely accepted as ear piercings. Johnson—an old-school stalwart from the Sea Tramp Tattoo Company, Portland, Ore.’s oldest tattoo parlor—is more than qualified to write a memoir about the tattooing life, and he seeks to “give the reader a more complete picture of a tattoo artist’s life and the lessons learned along the way, the things that a TV show or a visit to your local establishment can’t capture.” However, the character sketches of the oddball customers and itinerant artists that inhabit the Sea Tramp, while initially engaging, eventually become tiresome. Sure, stories about misspelled words inked onto some poor sap’s bicep and women seducing horny male artists into giving them free work are interesting anecdotes. But when compiled in book form, they tend to blur together, and Johnson’s authorial skills aren’t quite up to the task of threading them together into a meaningful narrative. Readers with a casual interest in body art will find something to enjoy, but those seeking a book that simply introduces them to a new world would be better off looking elsewhere.

Repetitive and rambling, but tat fanatics will dig it.

Pub Date: July 21st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-385-53052-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2009


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