LaserWriter II

I finished this dreamy little book about a week ago and I’m still thinking about it.

It’s not a plot-heavy novel; in fact, virtually nothing happens in it. It’s the 1990s in NYC. A young woman named Claire gets a job at an indie Mac repair shop called TekServe, works there for a while, learns to repair printers, leaves for other things, and that’s about it. It’s not a page-turner in the traditional sense.

Where Tamara Shopsin excels, however, is in the her ability to vividly capture a particular moment in time and space — that’s what LaserWriter II is really about, I think — and the delightful, dense imagery of her prose. I mean, look at this:

Claire waits till she is called over. Gary’s side of the bench is six steps, but a world away. Pop music by a girl groups always seems to blare — the coffee shop kind, spiced up with a violin or a flute.

Gary’s fingers are stiff and bloated like a stale pretzel that hangs from an umbrella of a hot dog stand. He tries to remove a plastic sensor that is akin to the metal prong of a doll’s shoe buckle. Sweat beads on his forehead. Claire is afraid it will drip into the printer.

It does. (107)

Or this:

As Deb worked at 163, more specialized technicians were added and intake was created. The Mac Plus was programmed to be a “now serving” machine and mounted above like a convenience store mirror. A billiard ball was hung on a string next to it, and was pulled to advance the serving numbers.

Customers came to the second floor depressed, clutching their ailing computers, to find a space that was as if Santa’s workshop had made love to a Rube Goldberg machine, complete with mutated elves. Hearts would melt, Coca-Cola would flow from glass bottles, and customers would wait patiently for their number to be called.

Soon Tekserve outgrew 163 and moved a few doors down to the fourth floor of 155 23rd Street. Everything and everyone came along for the move, and it was the same, only more. (47)

“It was the same, only more”. I love that. It’s just six words, but how evocative! I don’t know if Shopsin writes poetry, but I think she probably could (and maybe should). The narrative is also occasionally broken up by whimsical little interludes where printer parts discuss things like philosophy with each other while Claire cleans and repairs them. Which sounds weird, I know, but somehow it really works.

LaserWriter II is a strange, dreamy, nerdy little novel — and I’m really glad that I picked it up.

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