In The Media
January 16, 2013
A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Looming Tower, " the now-classic study of al-Qaeda's 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists--both famous and less well known--and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.Read more...
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A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Looming Tower, " the now-classic study of al-Qaeda's 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists--both famous and less well known--and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.
At the book's center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige--tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.
We learn about Scientology's complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church's goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church's clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.
In "Going Clear, " Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-01-28
- Reviewer: Staff
Pulitzer winner Wright (The Looming Tower) expands and carefully footnotes his investigation of Scientology, which began as a 2011 New Yorker article examining the defection of acclaimed screenwriter-director Paul Haggis from the church. The book-length version offers—in persuasive, albeit sometimes mind-numbing, detail—an eye-opening short biography of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and a long-form journalism presentation of the creature Hubbard birthed: a self-help system complete with bizarre cosmology, celebrity sex appeal, lawyers, consistent allegations of physical abuse, and expensive answers for spiritual consumers. Wright capably sows his thorough reportage into ground broken by Janet Reitman (Inside Scientology, 2011). He poses larger questions about the nature of belief, but can only lay groundwork because he has to fight to establish facts, given the secrecy and controversy surrounding Scientology, and his eyewitnesses are necessarily disenchanted and therefore adversarial. While Wright’s brave reporting offers an essential reality test, an analysis of why this sci-fi and faith brew quenches a quasi-religious thirst in its followers is still needed. First printing 150,000. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Jan. 17)
A defining look at Scientology
What do Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Nicole Kidman, Katie Holmes and Kirstie Alley have in common? Yes, they are all celebrities. But they have also been linked to the Church of Scientology, a controversial religion that some critics call a cult. And there are plenty of juicy stories about these and other celebrities in Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.
The book is an in-depth examination of a mysterious, murky religion that, despite its relatively small membership, “plays an outsize role in the cast of new religions,” says Wright. The Church of Scientology attracts a lot of attention by aggressively courting celebrities. In Going Clear, we read of Cruise being recruited by the church, and how his girlfriends and wives, Kidman and Holmes among them, are indoctrinated, only to later leave Cruise, and Scientology, behind. Then there is Travolta, who displays his devotion to Scientology by starring in the movie Battlefield Earth, based on the science fiction novel of the same name by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Going Clear is much more than a celebrity tell-all, however. Wright is a gifted writer for The New Yorker, whose deep and thorough reporting won him the Pulitzer Prize for The Looming Tower, an investigation of al-Qaeda and 9/11. Going Clear doesn’t simply recast stories about celebrities and Scientology, but takes us inside the organization via interviews with former church members and through research that most notably includes the writings of Hubbard.
We learn how this mildly successful sci-fi writer became an overnight sensation in 1950 when he published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. The self-help book explained how humans can improve their lives by ridding themselves of painful memories and emotions buried in the subconscious. The book became a bestseller and inspired Hubbard to establish the Church of Scientology. Wright describes how a seemingly plausible self-improvement theory became more complicated when Hubbard began hooking church members up to an E-Meter—tin cans affixed to the ears, with wires running to an electrical conductor—in an attempt to release the bad thoughts inside the brain. And we learn that Hubbard, who always had a fascination with Hollywood, made a conscious effort to attract movie stars to Scientology in order to boost its profile.
If you have been intrigued by the exploits of Cruise, Travolta and other celebrities with Scientology ties, or have ever wondered what the religion is all about, then Going Clear is a must-read. Wright treats the subject with intelligence, objectivity and careful research, making it the definitive book on the history and practice of Scientology.