Loads of Learned Lumber

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lawrence Wright, _Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief_

LAWRENCE WRIGHT IS not only an excellent journalist but a brave man, if what he says about the Church of Scientology's pattern of subjecting its critics to intimidation, vilification, and worse is true...and I'm not saying it is, mind you, as the last thing I need right now is to be intimidated, vilified, or worse by the Church of Scientology. But he seems to have done his work.

I think I picked this up partly because I was fascinated by Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and partly out of a lingering interest in home-grown American religions, initiated by reading Harold Bloom's The American Religion many years ago and recently boosted by Laurie Maffly-Kipp's Penguin anthology, American Scriptures.

At the end of the day, though, L. Ron Hubbard just does not seem to have the true mad village visionary gleam of Joseph Smith, say, or Mary Baker Eddy, or Ellen White. Scientology looks to have been 100% American High Hokum from the outset: a little self-help, a little gadgetry, a little science fiction, a little of the "unleash your hidden powers" appeal from those tiny little ads in the back of the pulpier of those old "men's magazines," like True or Argosy.

Clever of him, though, to set up shop in southern California, where the talented and good-looking arrive in flocks, badly in need of some confirmation that they are special and unique, daily subject to doubts and fears and various humiliations, and willing to pay whatever it costs to get to that psychological place where they can unleash their hidden powers.

I could be wrong, of course.  Perhaps some day Hubbard will be up there with Smith, Eddy, and White--in some ways, he's exactly the messiah we deserve.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Lucy Ives, _Orange Roses_

ANOTHER GREAT FIND in Conjunctions 60 was "Orange Roses" by Lucy Ives, perhaps a poem, perhaps a next-American-essay essay in the d'Agatan mode, but remarkable however one chooses to designate it.

"Orange Roses" is the title piece of Ives's recently-published collection, which seems in part to be a contemplation of her own career, judging from the titles "Early Poem" and "Early Novel," and the final piece, "On Imitation," about a quest of sorts she undertook at age twenty. One of the poems was published in Ploughshares when Ives was only 21 or 22; it was called "The Country House" then, but here it is titled "Ploughshares," which is both a canny gesture and a great joke.

I hope to discuss Orange Roses in a more respectable corner of the blogosphere, so I will say no more about it here, save to note that while the author, born in 1980, may be on the young side to be casting her eye over her journey as a writer, the Grateful Dead had only been a band for five or six years when they sang about what a "long, strange trip" theirs had been, and who are we to deny that their trip had indeed been long and strange? Ives's own trip, on the evidence of this book, has been strange and long enough.