Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tattoo Machine by Jeff Johnson

When I got my tattoo, it was a last-minute thing. My friend had decided it was the night to get her tattoo, and she'd done a little bit of research but hadn't made an appointment, so we walked into what she was assured was one of the better tattoo parlors in the city. Lots of flash on the wall, and binders full of it. (Flash is the paper typically tacked up all over tattoo parlor walls, a display of what the tattoo artists can do or have done; it also serves as idea fodder.) We ended up waiting five hours because there was only one artist working (which we found odd for a Friday night) and he was coloring in a huge tattoo on a woman's back; we both thought that if we left, we might make excuses not to come back. And boy, were there a lot of interesting people wandering in and out of that place. The girl doing the piercing that night was plenty busy.

Jeff Johnson's book Tattoo Machine, a collection of memories and analysis of the tattoo business (past, present and future), was an interesting book to spend a few hours with. Johnson co-owns a successful tattoo shop in Portland, Oregon. His stories are sad and funny and infuriating--and one story about the guy who wanted a banner with a name and number in it creeped me out. It seems obvious through his style that Johnson spent some time learning the craft of writing stories. He probably worked especially hard on his voice; I wouldn't be at all surprised if the persona he presents in the book is the persona the people who visit his shop see.

He does take off on tangents every now and then, rants that I would've recommended removing. But mostly he tells stories, and he does it well.

Anyone who has even the slightest interest in what goes on behind the scenes in a tattoo shop should read this. As you can imagine, he runs into all sorts of people--and he spares no one.


bermudaonion said...

Hey, you were able to insert a picture! I think this book sounds fascinating! I can't believe you waited five hours to get a tattoo - I would have chickened out way before then.

Zibilee said...

This sounds like a really interesting book. I, too, have a tattoo, and I am always interested in other people's art and the artists who create it. Glad that you liked the book!

Serena said...

sounds like a good book for some background on my novel. Thanks. I really need to check out this one.

Stephanie said...

I'm so glad I cam across your review. I've been considering this book for awhile now--looks interesting!

josh friesen said...

Sounds like a good one!