The Temple of Air

Briefly Knocked Unconscious By A Low-Flying Duck

Essay Anthology
2nd Story Collective
Editors Megan Stielstra
& Andrew Reilly

ISBN: 9780984670062
Pages: 248
Binding: Paperback
Price: $20.00

Limited Edition
Signed by All Contributors
(while supplies last)
Price: $50


Since early man carved bison and spears on cave walls, humankind has been telling stories. Today, short personal essays are a mainstay on the airways, the web, and in theaters and bars across the country. This anthology brings the vibrant oral tradition to the page through the work of 2nd Story, a Chicago-based collective of story-makers and story-lovers working to build community through storytelling. We culled through ten years of archived performances to select the twenty-three essays presented in this collection. Each was adapted from the stage to the page.

Stellar Reviews!

"We drove around Evanston, Illinois in Lisa's Toyota RAV4 with Xena sitting in the back seat. We pulled into an empty Dominick's parking lot, hot-boxed the RAV4, and blew smoke in Xena's face." This is just one of many memorable moments to come from this collection of 23 essays by members of the 2nd Story Group in Chicago. The book is filled with laugh-out-loud gags and witty anecdotes, not to mention heartbreak that's often underplayed, yet still impossible to miss. One need only look as far as the stories' titles to get a sense of this anthology's unique flavor. There's Byron Flitsch's "Dirty Dancing," Molly Each's "A Prostitute Comparison," the aforementioned "Xena: Cardboard Princess" by Sara Kerastas, and Patricia Ann McNair's heartfelt closing piece "Return Trip." The stories are endlessly relatable and their tellers are true masters of the craft, able to make you laugh, make you cry, and make you want to do it all over again once you've finished. This collection will demand, and receive, return trips from its readers." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“This collection gathers some of the 2nd Story’s best-told, completely true tales. In print, these stories resemble personal essays, yet they have a far looser, more conversational flow, thanks to their oral roots. Most [essays] illuminate a critical juncture in the storyteller’s life, including “Counting Days,” in which Bobby Biedrzycki shares his path to sobriety. And then there are the accounts like “Push Kick Coast,” Ric Walker’s narrative of a night at the skating rink gone tragically wrong, which serves as a haunting reminder that many of our stories end far too soon.”— Patty Wetli, Booklist

This title has been recommended for young adult readers:
YA/General Interest: This collection will provide teens with an accessible entry point into creative nonfiction. —Patty Wetli, Booklist

“The 2nd Story collective fosters a creative and thoughtful approach to writing, storytelling, and the spoken word, and citizens of the Second City—and now all of us readers—are lucky to have such a gem."
—Amanda Hurley, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

“You never know what you’re going to get, and this surprise allows the reader to share in the hushed space that’s characteristic of 2nd Story’s live performances.” —Robert Duffer, Timeout Chicago

“The essays collected here range from funny to heartbreaking; you’ll easily empathize with some, and others will shed light on utterly foreign worlds. But all of them will spark something inside you. What more could you ask for?"—Glenn Dallas, San Francisco Book Review

"This collection is a gift, and it will linger, so please do take a look, because it just might change your life." —Ben Tanzer, Blogspot

Early Praise

“A whole world retold. Life-saving. Hopeful . . . They really know how to tell a story.”—Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina

“Funny, compelling, intimate, raw, and always surprising, Briefly Knocked Unconscious By A Low-Flying Duck is storytelling at its absolute best. From porn queens to tooth fairies, blood clots to sobriety, prepare to be awestruck, dumbstruck, thunderstruck, and perhaps struck by low-flying fowl. These are stories you will want to read out loud to your friends.” —Dinty W. Moore, author of The Mindful Writer

“The best part about the stories in this collection isn’t that they’re captivating (though they are). And it isn’t that they’ll bring a tear just as much as they’ll bring a smile (though they will). And it’s not that they’ll introduce you to some of Chicago’s most incredible new writing talent (though that’ll happen too). No, the best part about the stories in this collection is that they are true.” —Dan Sinker, author of The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel

“These fresh voice-driven narratives will make you laugh and ache. A wonderful collection with the heart of true storytellers.” —Heidi W. Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

“When students see and hear the incredibly gifted storytellers of 2nd Story do their thing and see the impact they have on an audience, they then understand the unassailable beauty of oral history and tradition and see themselves as part of that lineage. To capture the authority of the stories 2nd Story tells is to chronicle our lives, to leave a legacy of our triumphs and struggles, our hopes and heartbreaks.” — Willa Taylor, Director of Education and Community Programs, Goodman Theatre

2nd Story

Since 2002, 2nd Story has hosted story-sharing performances and workshop/classes that fuse page, stage, and sound to deliver a unique live literary/theatrical experience. The stories range from the serious to the silly and can at once provoke and entertain. Each story is combined with musical accompaniment to enhance the spoken story and the pregnant pause. A typical show consists of four (or three or five) stories dispersed throughout the evening like courses in a meal.

Book in the News

NewCity Profile

Author Events

Saturday, March 9
Noon EST
Julie Ganey
In-Store Reading
Majerek’s Gift Shoppe
Niles, MI

Monday, March 11
7:00 p.m. EST
Patricia Ann McNair & Jacob Appel
Pacific Standard
Brooklyn, NY

Monday, March 25
7:00 p.m. EST
Andrew Reilly, Molly Each, Bobby Biedrzycki
The Power House Arena
Brooklyn, NY

Tuesday, March 26
7:00 p.m. EST
Molly Each, Andrew Reilly, Bobby Biedrzycki
In-Store Reading & Signing
Pacific Standard
Brooklyn, NY

Tuesday, April 2
7:00 p.m. CST
Briefly Knocked ... Readers TBA
City Lit Books
Revolution Brewing
Chicago, IL


Multiple city tour including stops in Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, St. Louis, and Portland; book video trailer, online promotions including social media, book giveaways, and active Twitter platform (@2ndStory); reading group campaign with reader’s guide; education adoption campaign; bookseller materials including postcards, jacket blowups; regional advertising.