"Though this biography is definitely unauthorized," Peter Stanford writes in his preface, "and the subject has not cooperated -- as far as I am aware -- I did at least manage to track down not one but three exorcists." We're used to seeing entertaining biographies of the famous, but here's something new: a very readable biography of the most infamous of all, the Devil himself. Peter Stanford presents a great amount of historical and scholarly material, yet manages to do so in a witty and highly intelligent style that keeps the reader turning the pages. From early Mesopotamia through the long history of Christianity, from medieval witch hunts to today's heavy metal rockers and Satanic cults, Stanford manages to, as he puts it, present a "very personal exploration of the highs and lows of the Devil's influence."
From Publishers Weekly
Now that Jack Miles has written God's biography (God: A Biography, 1995), Peter Stanford must give the Devil his due and tell the life story of Old Scratch. The personification of evil in a figure who co-exists with the goodness of God entered Western religious thinking through the demonology of Zoroastrianism. Thus, late Judaism and early Christianity divided up the world into good powers and evil powers. As Stanford narrates the story, the living character of an Evil One persisted through Puritan America but began to lose its grip amid the cultural and scientific optimism of the 19th century. Yet, he argues, since evil has persisted in our century, as evidenced by the Holocaust and other horrors, perhaps we shouldn't do away with the idea of Satan just yet. In spite of the fact that contemporary culture seems to have the left behind a personified figure who wreaks havoc and evil in the world, Stanford points to a number of cultural currents like film and Satanic cults to show that Satan is alive and well in our society, even if the contours of his figure are visible only in the shadows, which, as Stanford argues, may be just the way Satan wants it. Stanford offers a workmanlike treatment of ideas and themes that have already been explored in fuller and more interesting ways by Gerald Messadie (The History of the Devil, 1996) and Andrew Delbanco (The Death of Satan, 1995).
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.