A bunch of books I read, with Elaine Pagels, Teresa Iezzi, William Shatner and Aaron Mahnke. Satan, lore, Leonard Nimoy and copywriting all in one post.
Elaine Pagels – The Origin of Satan
Elaine Pagels had previously written about Gnosticism and therefore has e wide and deep knowledge of the early history of the Holy Bible. I’ve always found it very interesting how the Christian faith supercharged a Manichean worldview thanks to their black and white view of the world. You have people that are saved and people that are doomed, which is pretty much how Judaism and Islam view the world too. This was not an unheard of concept, the ancient Greeks viewed everyone who didn’t speak their language as inferior and barbaric, but even that was not to the same extent as the Christian faith changed the way we look at the world.
Satan embodies the other half of the dichotomy in Christianity, raised from a more pagan-like spirit to God-sidekick, he was cast as the opposing force. There’s a lot Pagels has to say about this, pointing out the incongruities of that whole viewpoint, but its shaping by human intervention in the teachings of Christ really has influenced our worldview and the complete dominating nature of these Semitic religions. I was mildly disappointed by this book, simply because most of it is not dealing with the name of Satan itself or its conceptualizations, but its socio-political meaning. This is highly interesting, but the book is mostly a critical reading of Biblical formation and censorship. A topic that can’t be highlighted enough in this illuminated world.
The passing of Leonard Nimoy hit sci-fi fans around the world hard. I still tear up at certain fragments in the new Star Trek films, like the brief scene where Zachary Quinto’s Spock receives word that Nimoy-Spock (time-loop thing, use google) has passed away. There was much ado about the fact that at the funeral one guest was sorely missing. That was William Shatner. His two daughters were present though and Shatner did have a huge event to attend. Though the two grew apart in their later years, Shatner probably felt the hurt of this sudden gap Nimoy left more than anyone else. So then he answered with this book.
The book is the life story of Spock and Kirk, of the men behind them and their long-lasting friendship. The story tells about elements of both their lives, the connective pieces and the discrepancies in the context of busines where friendships are rare. It’s a heartfelt story that includes a lot of painful moments that both men shared. Some moments are quirky and at times there’s a little too much Shatner in the story and too little Nimoy, but friendship is a process and feeling at the same time that is highly personal. It’s a good book, a pleasant read for those that want to experience that remarkable man through the eyes of his remarkable friend. Probably as close as you can get.
Aaron Mahnke has been hosting an amazing podcast for a while now and I had never heard of it until I came across this book. Lore is a rather complex term, that involves an element of common knowledge, mystery and its embeddedness in general consciousness. In the podcast, and obviously in the book as well, Mahnke explores the world of mystery and stories that fill our daily lives. Old superstitions are a big part of the book, for example, the story of where the vampire myths come from. The way they shaped and merged into the modern Bela Lugosi-esque view on the mythical being, illuminated through stories of vampire hunters, frauds, and very suspicious happenings.
But Mahnke uses the term Lore very broadly. Modern-day myths also are a part of the book. What you get is a collection of remarkable stories with dubious truths, that put a bit of mystery back into the world we live in. I became aware of the podcast and surrounding outlets during the book, so there’s a tendency in the writing style of short, bite-sized internet communication. You know, sometimes a bit too much suspense and almost sensationalist cliffhangers are a part of the way the stories are brought to you. But that’s what makes them so appealing, the way they often are told. In that sense, this is a great book for those who love the strange and weird.
As someone who has been involved with professional writing for most of my working career (and recently have started to work as a copywriter), I have a constant interest in the field and its development. I have a particular love for language, for the way it captivates us and how we gravitate to good storytelling. Even the opening line of my beloved Star Trek is an example of that: “Space, the final frontier…”. That’s still copywriting in an age where we have a different landscape of media. Advertising has changed a lot through that and Teressa Iezzi brilliantly outlines this in her book.
The best part about this book is that it’s not trying to summarize or conceptualize this new way of advertising. Iezzi tells it, the way it should be told: with stories. The book describes the heroic tales of new advertisers, innovative products, and daring ventures to tell the world about a product. Mostly without talking about the product. It aptly describes the heavy kind of jobs copywriters face and how their job has changed in these recent times to a more and more art-director-like position. A thoroughly enjoyable work, that builds up my enthusiasm more and more for the way words still carry magic as we used to believe.