The Lonely Voice #21: So Long Adobe Books


Another bookstore closes and San Francisco yawns. But Adobe Books on 16th Street, between Valencia and Guerrero isn’t another bookstore. It is a haven, a port for lonely souls, readers.

How many nights, after wandering hours, have I landed in one of the broken down easy chairs at Adobe Books? All the conversations I have listened to. I’ll miss a place where people actually talk to each other.

When it closes for good, sometime next month, some will mourn but not nearly enough. And Adobe too will be replaced with another sleek, high end clothing store. I’m afraid there is nothing unique about this lament.

All the books are now 60% off, but Andrew McKinley, among the kindest and most generous bookstore owners on earth, will still try and make you pay even less.

Last night I bought The Collected Stories of Wolfgang Hildesheimer. The book was originally listed at 9.95. Then it went down to 6.50. 60% off of 6.50 is, what? I’m terrible at math. I tried to pay four dollars. Andrew wouldn’t take it. He’d only accept three bucks, his final offer.

Is there another place in the universe can you buy The Collected Stories of Wolfgang Hildesheimer at one o’clock in the morning?

Wolfgang Hildesheimer by the way is – was – a very good, and funny, German story writer. Among the stories in the book is one called, “I Am Not Writing A Book On Kafka.”

Evil tongues, or rather their owners, claim (and I can see them sneering) that I am writing a book on Kafka. This accusation is false, I repudiate it. For I am working on a book on Golch.

No, the narrator is not writing a book on Kafka. The narrator is writing a book on Golch! Of course, Golch. Golch, an unknown schoolteacher from the town of Altzmunzach, a town in which the express trains do not stop…

Golch taught English and German at the High School for Daughters (this institution actually existed then and still does today)….

Don’t you all see what we are losing? If this city still has a soul, it’s at Adobe.

So long books I will never find. So long Wolfgang Hildesheimer. So long, Adobe Books. 16th Street will never be the same, and neither will we.

Peter Orner is the author of two novels, two story collections (Little, Brown), and the editor of two oral histories (Voice of Witness/ McSweeney's/ Verso). His latest book is Am I Alone Here?, an essay collection published in November, 2016 by Catapult with illustrations by Eric Orner. A new book of oral history set in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and co-edited with Dr. Evan Lyon, will be published by Voice of Witness/ Verso, in January, 2017. Peter Orner currently teaches at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers as well as at San Francisco State University where he is currently chair of the Creative Writing Department. More from this author →