Review: Tamara Shopsin’s ‘LaserWriter II’


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Perhaps it was inevitable, growing up in a family restaurant that had a menu legendary for its unbelievable length, that Tamara Shopsin would find herself drawn to endless printed pages. Her new novel, LaserWriter II, is a work of love and beauty, with quirks and twists, following its slightly autobiographical printer-repairing protagonist’s time at Tekserve, an Apple equipment repair shop in Manhattan that thrived from the late 1980s until the age of Apple’s own retail presence. (Cupertino started up its photocopiers, and blurry reproductions of Tekserve and other independent repair shops flooded out, as Genius Bars.)

The book will cause aching nostalgia for readers of the right generation: those who remember opening up computers or taking them to people with the know-how, those who recall PageMaker 1.0 or QuarkXPress 3.0 and the joy of refilling toner cartridges oh so carefully, and those who wore an anti-static strap to avoid frying computer chips.

For a younger crowd, the story is compelling, and the details will read quaintly historically in a way that, when I think about it, turns my bones to dust, and I blow away.

The phrase an Apple repair shop doesn’t begin to accurately describe Tekserve. It was the repair shop for a good chunk of its three decades. It was extraordinary across many axes, including the staff’s ability to repair just about everything and refusal to charge for phone support and quite a lot else. Shopsin told me that it was also an incredibly kind place.

Tamara Shopsin [Photo illustration: Michael Schmelling]

For Shopsin, who worked at Tekserve for just three months—but formative ones—in the late 1990s, this was a sharp contrast from the way her father, Kenny, ran Shopsin’s General Store, the diner that he and her mother, Eve, started in 1982. “I grew up in my family’s restaurant that was a similar strange, perfect soup,” she said. “But it was the opposite. It wasn’t kind like Tekserve; like, the customer is wrong. Where at Tekserve, the customer is always right—throw your wallet at them.”

Kenny threw a lot of people out of Shopsin’s—one party a day, he once estimated—for transgressions, such as being a party of more than four…