So, Joseph’s father loved him and gave him this coat, right. In a land of yellow dust and burnt sienna sand, it was a wonderful thing – a rainbow woven into a cloak. Not that it did poor Joseph much good. His brothers became jealous and decided to kill him. Then they decided not to kill him but rather throw him into a pit to die. Then they decided not to let him die in the pit but to haul him out and sell him to some slave traders for twenty pieces of silver. Many colours can be a good thing, but it ain’t necessarily so.
I just joined Twitter and Facebook and am finding it hard not to keep tuning in and checking, to make sure my Tweets/Posts are still there; almost as hard as not tuning in to WordPress to find out if anyone’s reading anything… and, more importantly, liking it. I’m already a bit ‘fragmented’ – easily distracted – a bit of a magpie. This can be useful, for blogging, but it can also be a form of torment. It depends how tired you are. And how many things there are to distract you. Now I have two more.
And I’m one of those compulsive readers. I can’t not read things, whether they’re adverts, cereal packets or instructions as to legal tyre-tread depth on the wall at the garage. Brain homes in on letters of the alphabet and nothing much else. It works like this. I wouldn’t know the colour or make of a car, even if I’d just been travelling in it (unless it was my own, of course.) Cars in a car-park are uninteresting as far as I’m concerned: mere rows of shiny objects with wheels. Yet recently I located a friend’s misplaced car in the hospital multi-storey, not by remembering where we parked it but by asking her to say the registration number. I turned, ran my eye along the first row and the number plate jumped out. It will always jump out (if it’s there at all).
It comes in useful, but it also means I find myself random-reading stuff on Twitter, when I haven’t really got time. The other day it happened to be an article from the Guardian by biographer Alexander Masters. And actually I’m glad I read it because it reminded me of something – that I have a long way to go before I can call myself a journalist. This was journalistic writing at its best. He was basically publicising his new, not-quite-published biography, A Life Discarded, and telling the story of how it came about. It was fascinating. Basically two good friends of his discovered 148 handwritten notebooks discarded in a skip, in an old Ribena bottle box and littered about generally. Since he was a biographer, they brought them to him. After many delays, partly caused by a bizarre accident to one friend and the discovery that the other friend was terminally ill, he started to read them.
They were diaries. At first he did not know the person’s name or gender – they were just ‘I’. Eventually he discovered that she was called Laura, but not her second name. He pieced her life together from the notebooks, discovering in the process that these were by no means all of the diaries. The 70s, the second half of the 60s and the 80s and most of the 90s were missing. He assumed that Laura was dead, since her diaries had been dumped in a skip, but as it happened, she wasn’t. And he found her…
I’m afraid I just have to read it, and have pre-ordered it – all because I got distracted. So, was distraction a good thing, because I stumbled across an author and a book-title I had never heard of before? Because it got me reading a Guardian article, which I would never normally have done since I don’t get the papers. Or was it a bad thing, because I ended up spending money on a book I shouldn’t even have known about?
Which reminds me of still other things: of my mother’s love of uniformity and her Alexander McCall Smith collection; of Nicholas Carr’s book suggesting that our brains are being seriously rewired by the internet; of Jane Austen and the Dead Sea Scrolls; of shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings. Which may well find their way into another post.
(Coat of Many Colors: Shoshannah Brombacher)