Leave a voicemail about a book you love and a story you’ve lived, the project asks.
It was a long flight, and one woman had brought Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese to occupy herself. When she got to the book’s saddest passage, she started sobbing. “I mean complete, shameless, snot flowing down my face sobbing,” she says. That’s when another woman sitting across the aisle from her handed her a tissue she had been holding in anticipation of this moment. “I read that book a few weeks ago, and I knew you were getting close,” she said.
This is one of many anonymous stories about books that has been told to Ishmael, of the site Call Me Ishmael, since it launched in June. The premise is simple: Anyone can call the site’s phone number and answer the prompt, “Leave a voicemail about a book you love and a story you’ve lived.”
Ishmael, who is voiced by TED-Ed director Logan Smalley, turns one of those voicemails each week into a video by sticking his iPhone to his typewriter with silly putty and running a transcription of the message through the roller to the speed of the audio. From a single prompt, the site has unleashed a wide range of stories.