Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink by Jeff Johnson

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Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink by Jeff Johnson

Johnson, Jeff. Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink.  Spiegel & Grau, 2009. ISBN 978-0385530521 272 pp. $

*****

Who knew the same rules applied to tattoo parlors as to restaurants? If the bathroom ain’t clean, you don’t want to patronize the joint.

Tattooist Jeff Johnson delivers an intelligent, insightful behind the scenes look at the tattoo industry in the United States, covering history, heroes and trends, alongside his own personal journey from night hog (apprentice schlub) to Trojan (master artist and businessman)–without being a total egotist. Johnson is an excellent storyteller, and an even better writer. Case in point:

“There is a singular quality in every person, a thing inside all of us that yearns to be free, to stab the boss in the eye with a pencil, to screw off some pressing obligation and get drunk on the porch, to just take a deep breath and stop worrying for a single afternoon, to say ‘I live in this skin. I will be me from now on, and I respect your right not to give a shit what I’m doing here.'”

Vivid writing, often funny and sometimes self-deprecating, Johnson hs such a great tone as he imparts life lessons and dispels stereotypes. I expect his book will do what Anthony Bourdain’s wonderful Kitchen Confidential did for the restaurant industry.

This is an engaging readable book that I can see teens picking up for the subject matter alone, and sticking with because of it’s authenticity.

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