By Dave Madden
On a Tuesday evening during a frigid, foggy August, I went across town to Adobe Books in the Mission District of San Francisco. That night, local fiction writers were reading works in progress as part of the festivities attached to Wouldn’t You Like To?, an installation in the shop’s backroom gallery by the artist Jason Houck. An engineer by training, with a day job at California’s public utilities commission, Houck had hung 70 photographic prints of shelves from the Adobe Books salesroom, stacked into ten lifesize bookcases along the wall of wide, white room. The images were a record of the store as it existed on June 6, 2016, all of it in cyanotype, a print process that renders everything in crisp blued-out detail.
The first thing I did while scanning Houck’s shelves was look for books I’d read. Soon, a couple joined me, sighing and pointing at certain spines. I picked out triptychs that Houck had captured: Sartre and Sedaris and Self; Dickens and Didion and Dillard. Below some titles were Post-Its written by passionate clerks. “Bukowski’s very favorite souce of literary inspiration,” read one underneath Céline.