Book Review: Sheet Music

Lawrence Wright

Sheet Music

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief

by Lawrence Wright
Vintage, 560 pp., $15.95 (paper)

"If Scientology is based on a lie," writes Austin journalist/musician Lawrence Wright in this National Book Award-nominated tome, "what does it say about the many people who believe in its doctrine or ... publicly defend and promote the organization and its practices?" The central falsehood to which Wright alludes comes from the World War II record of Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, one of several truth-stretching exercises on the part of the writer-turned-would-be-messiah. Yet even in the face of hard evidence of its central figure's dishonesty, believers consider his words sacred and hold themselves deliberately apart from anything that even remotely criticizes their religion. Wright's story runs from Hubbard's lifelong search for fame through the transformation of his psychology into a religion, including the abusive rule of Hubbard's successor David Miscavige and his followers' difficulty in breaking free once the horrors outweigh the benefits. His thorough research and exhaustive interviews, mostly with ex-Scientologists (or apostates, in the Church's POV), plus clear prose reveal a compelling story as often disturbing as it is fascinating, one as much about two men's personal aggrandizement as about the nature of faith in a non-mainstream spiritual path. (Wright's band Who Do performs Sunday at noon in the TBF Music Tent, 11th & Colorado.)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Scientology
New in Print
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Pulitzer Prize-winner Lawrence Wright explores the origins and alleged abuses of the Church of Scientology

Kimberley Jones, Jan. 25, 2013

More Music Reviews
Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way
Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way
The Parrothead behind the empire

Doug Freeman, July 21, 2017

All Over the Map, True Heroes of Texas Music
All Over the Map, True Heroes of Texas Music

Kevin Curtin, June 16, 2017

More by Michael Toland
ACL Live Review: Thunderpussy
Live Shot: Thunderpussy
When they write their “Thunderstruck,” ladies will be golden

Oct. 15, 2018

ACL Review: Durand Jones & the Indications
Live Shot: Durand Jones
Indiana soul throwbacks hit their marks despite no hits

Oct. 14, 2018


Scientology, Texas Book Festival 2013

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle