“Burning Beard: the Dreams and Visions of Joseph Ben Jacob, Viceroy of Egypt”
“Burning Beard” mashes together the biblical legend of Joseph, the ancient Egyptian book of dreams, and a modern sensibility, and spins them up into a humanist retelling of the life of Joseph. It’s clear that a fair amount of research went into this, and I’ve no doubt there are all kinds of subtle scholarly references here that are going over my head. She refers to Moses throughout as “the Beard”, his being the burning beard of the title. I would not be at all surprised to learn that some transcription error between dialects back in twelve BC mistranslated the word ‘beard’ to the word ‘bush’, or vice versa. And that is exactly the kind of little speculative cleverness that hooks me. Add to that the fact that she’s constructed this story by threading together two disparate chronologies, one from Joseph’s youth, the other from his old age, and actually pulled it off as an engaging, well-ordered narrative, and you can see why I’m impressed. This is a meticulously crafted story, and though it might not blow my mind or wrench my heart, there’s a lot here worth learning from.