January 3, 2013

AND IT'S TOUGH TO DROWN FISH:

 Careful Writer Stalks the Truth About Scientology (CHARLES McGRATH, 1/02/13, NY Times)

The writer Lawrence Wright doesn't seem at all the sort of person you'd find in public wearing a black cowboy shirt emblazoned with big white buffalos. He's shy, soft-spoken, a little professorial. But as if he didn't have enough to do, besides working on three plays simultaneously and getting ready to publish a new book in two weeks, Mr. Wright has been taking piano lessons with Floyd Domino, the two-time Grammy winner, and on a recent Saturday, in his buffalo shirt, he played in a concert at the Victory Grill here with the band WhoDo. Mr. Wright was at the keyboard, and sang solo on "Sixty-Minute Man" and the Count Basie tune "She's Funny That Way." Not bad for a bookworm.

"I decided a while ago that I would only do things that are really important or really fun," Mr. Wright said. "This is really fun."

More fun, probably, than dealing with lawyers. His new book, "Going Clear: Scientology, Celebrity, and the Prison of Belief" (Knopf) is about the famously litigious Church of Scientology, and he said he has received innumerable threatening letters from lawyers representing the church or some of the celebrities who belong to it. [...]

Mr. Wright, whose previous book, "The Looming Tower:" Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, is no stranger to writing about secretive organizations. In the case of Scientology, he said, he had been looking for what he calls a "donkey" -- a character strong and sympathetic enough to carry a complicated story. "I don't mean it in a disparaging way," he explained. "A donkey is a very useful beast of burden." In 2010 he finally found one in Paul Haggis, the winner of back-to-back Oscars for "Million Dollar Baby," which he wrote, and "Crash," which he wrote and directed, who defected from Scientology in 2009, after 34 years in the church, during which he rose to one of its highest ranks.

In 2011 Mr. Wright published a profile of Mr. Haggis in The New Yorker, and in the course of the fact-checking process Tommy Davis, the international spokesman for Scientology, did Mr. Wright an unwitting favor. He showed up in The New Yorker offices with four lawyers and 47 white binders full of material about the church.

"I suppose the idea was to drown me in information," Mr. Wright recalled, "but it was like trying to pour water on a fish. I looked on those binders with a feeling of absolute joy."
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Posted by at January 3, 2013 5:34 AM
  
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