By Tamara Shopsin
LongBefore the first shiny Apple StoreArrived in ManhattanThere was Tekserve, the independent Macintosh computer repair shop open on West 23rd StreetFrom 1987 to 2016. ForCustomers who used it were treated to reliable service in a funky, vintage-themed space. MacsA hanging porch swing and an antique glass-bottle Coke machine. IfYour PowerBook 1400 crashed to a halt, or your printer became constipated by paper jams. TekserveWe were there to help.
Tamara Shopsin sets “LaserWriter II,” her first novel, at TekserveThe late 1990s were before smartphones and social networks became ubiquitous. It’s the story of 19-year-old Claire, who’s searching for purpose and spending her free time illicitly auditing philosophy classes using someone else’s lost ColumbiaStudent ID She’s a quiet idealist: “ClaireI was attracted to anarchy that believed and supported small communities and promised a just society. Everyone had said, ‘life is not fair,’ but maybe it could be.”
SheAlso, loves Macs. A message board posting a help-wanted advertisement brought her to a TekserveInterview for a job and then into a strange new work family that includes theater people, audio engineers, and so on. BulgarianElectronic wizard. They’re all supervised by the company’s unorthodox founders, David Lerner Dick Demenus.
DespiteShe lacks experience ClaireShe is quickly drafted into the printer department. One of her first tasks is fixing the LaserWriter II, a 45-pound piece of hardware. ItOnly one design flaw: her trainer JoelShe tells her that it takes 10 years for it to surface. “Joel pauses for breath,” Shopsin writes. “Claireshe is sitting on the edge. He concludes, ‘TheFan blades can warp and collect dust over time. This dust eventually gets into the optics and causes pages to ghost.’”
Shopsin, wary of making her novel read like an engineering manual, even with the riveting drama of industrial design hitches, takes a creative approach, anthropomorphizing the machine’s innards in reaction to an invasive repair: “Octagonal mirror’s voice wavers in reply, ‘As Susan Sontag said, “Courage is as contagious as fear.”’”
InsideLaserWriter II Claire finds that “the universe makes sense.” Shopsin — also an illustrator, cook, restaurant co-owner and a former printer technician — is clearly on comfortable ground, ambling through Claire’s existential quest in short sentences and choppy paragraphs, which create a tense rhythm, even when describing the activity around the office fish tank. (ShopsinHer prose style is a credit to her work as an artist. Los Angeles ReviewThis is Books, “MyIllustrations are sparse; they leave gaps that the viewer fills in. These gaps are also a part of my writing.”)
Along with her protagonist’s talking printer parts, ShopsinThe real corporate histories of both are also woven together Tekserve AppleIn the book. TheseSide trips down geek memory lane are a delight for many an older-nerd longing for those days when AppleHe was still a fierce little outlier, punching up in a WindowsThe PC world, not $2 trillion Big Tech BigfootIt is now. ReadersWanting a more linear narrative or those who were never indoctrinated into it? CultThis is Mac) may get fidgety with the diversions, even as context for Claire’s story.
As she demonstrated in “Stupid Arbitrary Goal,” her 2017 Greenwich Village memoir, ShopsinCaptures the details of an era in ever-evolving detail with a gift New York CityMuch like Paule Marshall’s 1950s immigrant BrooklynOr Joseph Mitchell’s midcentury character studies around the five boroughs. “LaserWriter II” is a screenshot of a less gentrified East Village in the 20th century’s final decade, with punk rockers squatting in an AvenueB apartment, a broke intern who resells CDs to Mondo Kim’s on St. Marks PlaceObservations about the subject that are well-honed. TekserveIts people. It’s a crisp redraw of a time when Apple ComputerRebellious rebels could afford to live in poverty because they were able to rebel. Big Apple and — in more ways than one — people found themselves Offline.
Source: NY Times