Published: October 19, 2021
Length: 202 pages
Tamara Shopsin’s debut novel, LaserWriter II, is slim and largely plotless, and yet somehow manages to be charming and totally compelling.
It’s a very quick read, but it has stuck in my mind in the weeks since I finished it.
LaserWriter II is a coming-of-age story about Claire, a young woman who gets a job at Tekserve, a famous (now long-closed) Apple repair shop in New York City in the 90s. She starts in intake and then moves up the ranks into repair technician. Along the way, she discovers that she is really good at repairing obscure and discontinued printers.
She finds that she loves the fiddly work of opening up old printers and meticulously cleaning every surface. She dives in, vacuuming out dust and searching for the source of mysterious problems through arcane and sometimes incomplete documentation.
LaserWriter II is a history of Tekserve and its founders, their driving principles, the way they loved Apple hardware. Their guiding principle was making their customers happy, even if that meant providing some services for free as a courtesy.
Reading this book made me wonder how much was fact and how much was fiction; this book doesn’t read like a memoir, but it also doesn’t read like a definitive historical record. It’s more like an impressionistic sketch of a bygone era. It contains enough truthiness to feel real, but comes filtered through Shopsin’s quirky, minimalist style, poetic in its simplicity.
LaserWriter II is a series of vignettes about the diverse and varied people who worked at Tekserve. The story is full of weirdos who came to the repair shop from all backgrounds and found their niche.
The book takes detours in and out of the workers’ lives, their stories all presumably based on actual former employees. Each new oddball Shopsin introduces illuminates another strange corner of the Tekserve community.
LaserWriter II is also a series of sketches where anthropomorphic printer parts discuss their many troubles. This usually happens while Claire digs in their innards trying to find a solution.
These bizarre interludes are strange and funny. They also help emphasize the way those old pieces of hardware felt like they had souls and personalities.
LaserWriter II is all of those things mashed together, in an odd, funny little novel. It’s light on its feet but full of depth, somehow simultaneously both insubstantial and overstuffed. Reading it made me want to spend more time in that place with those people.
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.