not merely superfluous, but ridiculous
this post was originally published on my Goodreads account.
A fascinating, frequently horrifying work. It makes me want to watch The Master again, because I obviously missed a lot, and both this book and that film touch on the ways that movements like Scientology sprung out of the disillusionment surrounding the end of WWII, as all the physical and psychological casualties of that war struggled to find a way to heal in the picket-fence landscape of 1950s America. Two things I loved about this book:
1) The level of research and source-checking that went into it, and how author Lawrence Wright cites opposing sources and objections to certain accounts even as he clearly shows why he favors the accounts over the objections.
2) The way Wright gives every benefit of the doubt to an organization that probably doesn’t deserve this level of journalistic mercy. In a way, it’s more damning than any screed directed against Scientology could be. Wright is open-minded, sympathetic toward Hubbard, even more sympathetic toward the adherents of Scientology who gravitate toward the system in an attempt to make some sense of their world. But even with these sympathies present in the author, it’s hard to see the religion as anything but a dangerous and reprehensible fraud more concerned with making money than making the world a better place or its inhabitants any happier.
The Hollywood stuff is all predictably entertaining, too, and gives the book even more of a kick. I mean, how often do you get to mix in a bunch of Hollywood gossip with a thoroughly-researched bit of investigative journalism? But it doesn’t distract from the serious message at this book’s center, and by the end you see how important the movements of Hollywood have been to the positions of this new, incredibly strange religion.