Quotable: Angels & Demons

Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. – August Wilson (Goodread’s Daily Quote 4/27/14)


One of the many reasons I love using Goodreads is the Daily Quote. Not a day goes by that I don’t check my GR home page for the day’s inspiration or thought. The Wilson quote above stopped me in my tracks.

When my brother and I were children, my mom told us we had an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Each day, each moment was simply a question of which side would win out. Would I listen to my angel or my devil? This duality was a simple case of right and wrong, strength and weakness. It’s a tactic I’ve used often raising three sons.

But what struck me about Wilson’s quote was the internalization of those demons. They don’t just sit on our shoulders whispering in our ear; they live inside of us.  From his viewpoint, it’s not enough to simply listen to right over wrong.

This is the story of Wilson’s work, his plays and essays. Yes, they are a portrait of the black experience in America, but they hold the same “everyman” appeal as his fellow playwright Arthur Miller. That is why his plays and this quote have stood the test of time.

To be our best selves, we must actively engage, battle, “wrestle” our internal demons. I think he’s right.

World Book Night 2014 — A Perfect Pub Crawl

The World Book Night 2014 euphoria is still fresh in my mind as I write this.

Kathy and I in our WBN shirts. April 23, 2014.

Kathy and I in our WBN shirts. April 23, 2014.

This was my 3rd time sharing my love of reading and pressing books into the hands of strangers – and it was the best year yet. Instead of the train station, we opted for a pub crawl. Really, beer and books have a natural, alliterative relationship anyway. Four of us, wearing matching WBN shirts, hit the first tavern.

WBN 2014 Stop One at FatDuck. Beer & Books.

WBN 2014 Stop One at FatDuck. Beer & Books.

We got off to a slow start. We were hesitant to interrupt conversations and didn’t have any formal permission to embark on our mission, but we ordered our beers, set our books on the bar, took a deep breath and plunged in. I introduced the hostess to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, assuring her she’d love the insider’s look at the restaurant biz. She cracked it open immediately (as the restaurant wasn’t busy). I can’t express how rewarding it was to see her smile grow as she turned the pages. It gave us all the confidence to approach everyone else.

We quickly found our groove and gave away 80 books in a little over 2 hours in two pub/restaurants and a coffee shop, plus several pedestrians as we made our way down Madison Street. We stayed the longest at the Piggy Back Tavern, where we gave away books, sampled a great variety of draft beers and shared a delicious dinner. We took turns approaching families, individuals and staff members, offering our selections.

WBN 2014 final stop. Piggy Back Tavern

WBN 2014 final stop. Piggy Back Tavern

Of course there were a number of polite (and sometimes rude) “no’s,” but far more people got into the spirit of the night, asking us questions about the books and about WBN. Two interactions stand out:

As I made my way to a new table, the woman seated there looked at my shirt and said, “Oh, April 23, Book Night. When did that come to America?” I gave her the WBN background and she told me about the custom in Spain where you give a book and a flower to a loved one. I ended up chatting with her family and sharing Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Kitchen Confidential and The Ruins of Gorlan with them.

Then, at the end of the night, when we had only two books left, we were ready to give in. The bar had filled with mostly male Chicago Blackhawks fans (April 23 was also Game 4 in the Stanley Cup Playoff series vs. the St. Louis Blues – GO HAWKS!). None of us felt confident interrupting these fans with our book pitch. We noticed one fan talking to the bartender and pointing to all the customers around him with books in front of them. The bartender pointed out our table; the fan came over and I ended up convincing him to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, telling him he’d seem like a sensitive soul with the ladies.

World Book Night 2014 was awesome. I’m always a little reluctant/nervous to start but end up feeling so rewarded by sharing the love of reading. Strangers are so surprised that we’re offering something and asking nothing in return but that they try a new book. Many of these people stopped to thank us again before leaving. I also got such a kick out of sharing the experience live on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – connecting immediately to givers across the country.

Can’t wait for next year.

My WBN 2014 choice was Kitchen Confidential.

My WBN 2014 choice was Kitchen Confidential.

Our group's selections for 2014.

Our group’s selections for 2014.