“Call me Ishmael.”
Call me Twain
Call me Austen.

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick begins with the introduction of the main character—Ishmael. We follow him through the ultimate revenge story cloaked in a painfully detailed description of the 19th century whaling industry.

In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, we wander through he deep south with Huck and Tom Sawyer, sounding our way through the intense, expertly crafted dialect. The vernacular is an education in both culture and phonics.

Jane Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, starts of with a plain-as-day statement. At least, says she, it’s “universally acknowledged.” And the rest of her story explores why sometimes universally acknowledged ideas may not always be the only way to live one’s life.

My guess is Melville, Twain, and Austen didn’t dare think their words would reach as many minds as they have. They probably didn’t sit down to craft their novels with changing the world as their goal. Maybe. Maybe not. But here’s the thing: Words can change the world. Words do change the world. Sure, I may skip a few whaling chapters and struggle through Twain’s colloquialisms and have to start an Austen sentence over once or thrice just to make heads and tails of it. But their words—their ideas—have taught me and changed me more than they can ever know.

When I need inspiration—or a kick in the writing pants—I pour my coffee into this mug (a gift from a friend who’s always cheering on my writing). As I write, surrounded by the greats, I’m comforted by their successes and their insecurities. And while I don’t dare think about how far my words may reach, I will dare dream. 

Call me Ishmael. Call me Twain. Call me Austen. Call me Gehman.


Monday Mugs is where I tell the stories behind my coffee mugs. Each one holds a story (and coffee, of course) of somewhere I’ve been or something I’ve seen. The photos are my actual mugs, not lookalikes found online. So grab one of your own mugs (fill it with coffee first) and hear the stories of mine. And don’t forget the cream and sugar.

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