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.)

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