"Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief" by Lawrence Wright

Discussion in 'Media' started by The Wrong Guy, Nov 14, 2012.

  1. Horseradish Member

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  3. The Wrong Guy Member

    Renowned journalist throws the book at Scientology

    By Daniel Burke - Religion News Service - January 31, 2013

    Wright spoke recently to Religion News Service. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    Q: Why did you write this book?

    A: I’ve always been curious about why people believe one thing rather than another. In America you can believe anything you want, unlike in a lot of other countries where there’s only one religion. So why would people be drawn to Scientology, one of the most esoteric and stigmatized religions?

    Q: And what did you find?

    A: Oftentimes people who go into Scientology are dealing with a personal problem. If you enter a Church of Scientology building you’ll be asked, “What is your ruin?” That is, what is standing in the way of your financial, spiritual and emotional success? And they will talk through things with you and offer a menu of courses designed to help. And many people do feel that they are helped by the courses or therapy.

    Q: What does “going clear” mean for Scientologists?

    A: L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, had a theory that we have two minds. One is our rational, analytic mind. It’s like a computer: it remembers everything perfectly. What gets in the way of that is the “reactive” mind, which is full of fears and neuroses and traumas from our previous life and previous lifetimes. The object is to expunge those old painful memories, which he calls “engrams.” Once you eliminate the reactive mind you become “clear”: more intelligent, your reactions are quicker, your eyesight is better, you’re invulnerable to disease – near superhuman, in other words.

    Q: And people believed this despite the fact that the promised benefits rarely come to pass, even for Hubbard?

    A: The idea that you could acquire these powers was definitively an incentive and still is. In one of their magazines they have a section called “OT Powers,” in which upper-level Scientologists report what appear to be coincidences that they have experienced, like being able to change traffic lights to green and cure goldfish of sudden disease. None of them seem very remarkable, and it’s a very expensive course of treatment.

    Q: You present a complex portrait of Hubbard, who seemed both desperately insecure and supremely self-confident. What drove him?

    A: I think much of what he wanted was to cure himself. In the book I make an analogy to schizophrenia being called the “shaman sickness” in aboriginal cultures. These are people we would consider schizophrenics, but who perform a function in society and religion. Hubbard created this image of himself as a wounded warrior who couldn’t be healed by modern medicine, but healed himself and then went out to heal the community.

    Q: And yet his injuries and war record were largely fictional, according to your reporting.

    A: Yes, exactly.

    Q: Can you describe what you discovered about Scientology’s secret work camps in the U.S.?

    A: There are re-education camps in different locations for Sea Org members (Scientology’s clergy) who have offended the leader or committed some infraction against the Church of Scientology. On one of them, Gold Base, there’s a place called “the hole”: two double-wide trailers married together, where people are sent, often without being told of their crimes.

    In 2004, (church leader) David Miscavige cleared away all the furniture and sent top executives to stay there, some for years. An elderly man who was the president of the church (a nominal post) was in the hole for seven years. Mike Rinder, Scientology’s (former) international spokesman, was placed in the hole. Occasionally they pulled him out, put a tuxedo on him and sent him to a gala to give a speech. Then he went back in the hole.

    Q: Why hasn’t the government done anything about this?

    A: At one point the FBI told my sources, former Scientologists, that they were planning a raid on Gold Base. They were going to open the hole and liberate the people there. But my sources told the FBI not to bother. The people held in the hole would only tell them that everything was sunlight and seashells there – that they were there for their own good. There are some people who actually escaped from the Sea Orgs but who went back. Other times they would be tracked down and brought back by a crew that is trained to follow and find people who have fled. They are very good at finding you; and when they do, you are likely going back into confinement for a long time.

    Q: Why would someone willingly go back, or agree to stay in those camps?

    A: Well, put yourself in their place. Many of them joined as children, some were born into it. Many, if not all, of their friends and family are Scientologists. If you left, they would never talk to you again. They are only paid $50 a week, so they don’t have any income or education to fall back on. Young Scientologists don’t really get any formal education. Their knowledge of the outside world is very restricted and they are taught to distrust outsiders. From the very beginning, when you go into Scientology your world narrows down very quickly. You’re also taught that your salvation is at stake and if you bring disgrace on Scientology nothing could be worse. To some extent, they are not being held against their will; it’s their will that is holding them there.

    Q: You detail some pretty serious violations of child labor laws by Scientology. Why isn’t law enforcement stepping in?

    A: I don’t know. I mean, the church says it’s not in violation, but I look at those labor laws and it seems pretty clear. I can tell you that law enforcement agencies are reluctant to get involved with the Church of Scientology. The church is surrounded by high-powered lawyers. If you are going to take on the Church of Scientology, whether it’s the FBI or the IRS or the sheriff of Riverside County, it’s a mighty task, and the agencies know that very well.

    Q: For example, they completely cowed the IRS to get their religious organization exemption.

    A: And this is a rather small organization that could inflict so much trouble on the IRS. I don’t know what the IRS used to judge that Scientology was a religion. A group of accountants and lawyers is not the best-equipped body to disentangle what a religion is, but the circumstances surrounding the tax exemption are pretty alarming. The church filed a barrage of lawsuits, had private investigators tail IRS agents and smear their careers. The reason behind the deal for the IRS was so that the harassment and lawsuits would stop.

    Q: Scientologists have a history of surveilling, threatening, and suing journalists too, sometimes even framing them for crimes. Are you concerned about that?

    A: My eyes were open to start with, but it was such an amazing story I couldn’t resist myself. So far the church has published one surveillance photo of me interviewing a source, but I think they were more interested in the source than me. I have received stern letters from the Church of Scientology and their lawyers and from the lawyers of celebrities mentioned in the book, but no one has sued me. And I’m very confident in the sourcing and material in the book.

    Q: David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology, comes across as a violent, abusive person in your book. How different would the church be if he weren’t leading it?

    A: You have to give him credit, he saved Scientology. If not for the tax exemption he managed to get, Scientology would be out of business. They owed a billion dollars in back taxes, and he salvaged the church from certain death. I know that a lot of people who have left the church blame him for moving away from L. Ron Hubbard’s original ideas, but the difference is that Miscavige grew up in, and is a product of, the Church of Scientology. It’s hard to know how it would be different without him.

    Q: If people know anything about Scientology, they likely know about celebrity members like Tom Cruise. You write that fame is actually a spiritual value for the church. How so?

    A: L. Ron Hubbard set up the Church of Scientology in Hollywood in 1954 for a reason. He understood that celebrity was increasingly a feature of American public life, and celebrities themselves were going to be worshipped as minor deities were in the ancient world. The Celebrity Center in Hollywood went out to court exemplary figures that Scientology could use as front men. Early on, the church published an ideal list of catches, including Bob Hope, John Ford, Marlene Dietrich and Walt Disney. The idea was: if you could get them, think how many people would follow.

    Q: Do you think celebrity members like John Travolta and Cruise know about the abuses perpetuated by church leaders?

    A: If they don’t, I think it must be willful blindness on their part. It’s not as if people in the public don’t know, or that you can’t find out about these abuses. It’s easy to do. But Scientologists are trained to avoid noticing any kind of public criticism, and I think that’s especially true of celebrities. The are coddled and given special treatment – that’s a perk of being a celebrity in the Church of Scientology – and they are reluctant to give that up, and in the process they are overlooking very serious abuses.

    Q: Your write that no one has receive more material benefits from the church – motorcycles, cars, house repairs, etc. – than Tom Cruise. Is he, then, implicated in the church’s misdeeds?

    A: I think he bears a moral responsibility to look into the abuses. The public sees him as the primary spokesperson for the Church of Scientology. The church has exploited him and rewarded him, and because of his membership, more people have heard about and joined the church. There are not many avenues for change in the Church of Scientology, and Tom Cruise might be able to affect more change than anyone else.

    Q: You write that Miscavige watches videos of Cruise’s secret confessions at night with a glass of whiskey. That alone might draw some response from Cruise. Has he reacted to your book yet?

    A: His lawyer weighed in and said Tom Cruise thought the book was very boring.

    Q: The church has been a bit more critical, calling your book “error-filled” and “unsubstantiated.” How do you respond to that?

    A: I spoke to more than 250 people, many of them current or former Scientologists, and some of them were at the top levels of the church. Starting with The New Yorker (Wright wrote an article about Scientology for the magazine in 2011), we sent more than 1,000 fact checking questions to the church. Since the article came out in The New Yorker, we’ve sent more than 150 fact checking questions to the church. We received only partial responses, some of them very hostile. I tried to present the church’s perspective as much as possible.

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    More at

    A shorter version of the article also appeared today in The Washington Post.
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  4. failboat Member
    Interview with Larry Wright from a few days ago, dunno if it's posted, but it was pretty hard to find.
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  5. jensting Member

    It would be lovely if Mr Wright could find time in his busy schedule to consider eBook availability in Europe.


    Here's what Random House says:

    which is not a bad answer to a grumpy note on their website, I have to admit.
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  6. failboat Member

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  7. failboat Member

    This review is by an affiliate of The Guardian of the UK, where Wright's publisher reneged on publication.

    Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright – review

    Sukhdev Sandhu applauds an eye-opening account of America's most controversial religion
    At the end of the 1940s, L Ron Hubbard – a sinophobic college dropout turned pulp writer (his pseudonyms included Joe Blitz and Legionnaire 148) turned reckless naval officer (one report claimed he was "lacking in the essential qualities of judgment, leadership and co-operation") turned ulcerous and gonorrhea-afflicted war veteran – hatched a plan to revive his stuttering fortunes. "I'd like to start a religion," he's reported to have declared. "That's where the money is."
    The line between fact and fiction, objective reality and fevered speculation, has always been foggy when it comes to Scientology. That's partly because of Hubbard and the weird eschatologies he devised, which involved a despotic leader named Xenu and billions of spirit-like creatures called thetans who were transported to Earth only to be dropped into volcanoes before being blown up by hydrogen bombs.
    It's also a result of the litigious and bullying tactics of church members, who scare off would-be investigators (to the point that Wright's book can't be published in the UK). And perhaps it's something to do with our desire for a narrative – equal parts Hollywood Babylon, ufology and David Koresh-style cult – that couches postwar American history, especially the gulf between its sunny side-up rhetoric and its rather glummer social polity, as one big conspiracy theory.
    The Hubbard that emerges from Going Clear is certainly no saint. He's a serial cheat, an abusive husband who kidnapped one of his daughters from an early wife and claimed to have "cut her into little pieces and dropped the pieces in a river", an increasingly sybaritic ideologue who believed America's jails and mental hospitals were full of inmates who had been unsuccessfully aborted by their "sex-blocked mothers to whom children are a curse, not a blessing of God".
    But Hubbard, even though he lived in a country estate in Sussex in the early 60s, and dreamed of taking over Rhodesia, is also the embodiment of a peculiar and not unimpressive kind of American dynamism: a Barnum-like huckster, confidence man as philosopher, the quack who would be king. That will-to-power – as epic in its ambition as the tales in the science fiction journals where his theories were first elaborated – is also evident in the world's most famous modern-day Scientologist, Tom Cruise, who is reported here as saying: "If fucking Arnold can be governor, I could be president." (The book records Cruise's denial that he ever said this.)
    Over the past week American bloggers have been exultantly cherrypicking it for bizarre episodes and tut-tutting over Hubbard's apparent reaction to the early death of his son Quentin: "That little shit has done it to me again." Particularly disturbing is Wright's description of a darkened basement in a Scientology building ...

    More at link:
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  8. Tourniquet Member

    I'll just leave this here:
    Going Clear
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  9. failboat Member

    Best-selling books week ended Jan. 27


    9. "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of belief" by Lawrence Wright (Knopf)


    6. "Going Clear" by Lawrence Wright (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

    Nielsen BookScan gathers point-of-sale book data from about 16,000 locations across the U.S., representing about 85 percent of the nation's book sales. Print-book data providers include all major booksellers and Web retailers, and food stores. E-book data providers include all major e-book retailers. Free e-books and those sold for less than 99 cents are excluded. The fiction and nonfiction lists in all formats include both adult and juvenile titles; the business list includes only adult titles. The combined lists track sales by title across all print and e-book formats; audio books are excluded. Refer questions to
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  10. DeathHamster Member

    And why did they even agree to publish in the first place if they rolled over and spread them for Scientology at the first threat? "We're publishing a book about Scientologly. OH DEAR LORD they're threatening to sue!" Well shock and surprise...

    Scientology chased after the publication of Bare-Faced Messiah around the English-speaking, common-law, part of the world and got trashed in the courts. Sue you in England? No. You are the weakest link. Good-bye.
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  11. jensting Member

  12. Anonymous Member

  13. Anonymous Member

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  14. Anonymous Member

    "Dude, it is 'clear' you can't tell truth from bs, and your writing isn't any better.

    You are obviously trying to push your hatred of Scientology and/or Mr. Hubbard onto others. It would be interesting to explore the how and why of your hatred, but that is up to you. "

    Always attack never defend, "dude" who uses that word today?
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  15. Anonymous Member

    LA Times bestseller list non-fiction, Feb 3 2013

    Going Clear
    Lawrence Wright
    An examination of the Church of Scientology and its late founder L. Ron Hubbard.
    (Knopf: $28.95)
    Read The Times' book review.
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  16. Anonymous Member

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  17. Anonymous Member

    On eternal battery here.


    Galactic Emperor Lord Xenu
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  18. failboat Member

    Scientology’s weirdness and wizardry

    Lawrence Wright attempts to penetrate a secretive and tightly controlled sect.

    By Jeff Sharlet

    Most readers will come to Lawrence Wright’s much-anticipated expose of Scientology in search of two things: perfidy and celebrity. They won’t be disappointed. Which is a shame, since Wright’s stated ambition is “to learn something about what might be called the process of belief.” He’s well qualified, the author not just of a Pulitzer Prize-winning 2006 study of al Qaeda, The Looming Tower, but also of a number of smaller, even intimate books about the experience of belief, including the minor classic Remembering Satan.
    Going Clear begins in that close-up spirit with the early years of Paul Haggis, the screenwriter and former Scientologist Wright profiled in The New Yorker. For a precious few pages, we’re allowed to encounter Scientology something like the young Haggis did: as a creed more modern, more sophisticated, more intelligent, more liberating than any he was likely to find in the blue-collar Ontario of his youth.
    Then comes Chapter Two, and L. Ron Hubbard, red-haired and big-mouthed, literally and figuratively, a relentless teller of tall tales. He lied about his naval record (abysmal), his education (no nuclear physicist, he), and his allegedly uncanny powers.
    Before Scientology, there was Aleister Crowley, the English “magician” revered by generations of would-be wizards. When Hubbard and a friend tried to breed an Antichrist according to Crowley’s teachings, even Crowley rolled his eyes: “I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these goats.” Of course, Hubbard — “Source,” just “Source,” no “the,” of Scientology — didn’t really want Crowley’s approval. According to the Church of Scientology, he was undercover for “naval intelligence” on a mission that “broke up black magic in America.” Phew!
    At times you can sympathize with pre-Scientology Hubbard, as one might for one of filmmaker Wes Anderson’s imaginative, excitable boy-man heroes in films such as Rushmore and Moonrise Kingdom. Here’s Hubbard writing for himself in what Wright calls a “disputed document” — in the sense that any questioning of Source’s stunning perfection is disputed — titled “Affirmations”: “You never illustrate your point with bogus stories. It is not necessary for you to lie to be amusing and witty.” And “You are radiant like sunlight.” And just one instance of an affirmation on a subject to which he returned many times: “You do not masturbate.”

    For open comments and more of the review -
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  20. Anonymous Member

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  21. Love Sharlet's stuff, thank you!

    However in answer to his question as to why we care...if Hub hadn't locked five year olds in chain lockers and people weren't hunted down for leaving, etc. maybe it would be no more odious than the other religions it seeks to hide behind.
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  22. Rockyj Member

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  23. tigeratbay Member

  24. failboat Member

    Here ya go, 10 1/2 minute video:

    Here's a review from today, from a columnist in Vermont:
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  25. Anonymous Member

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  26. failboat Member

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  27. wolfbane Member

    Wright gets ovar 9000 bonus points for the whole damn book imo... I am so impressed with the man's awesomeness that I can't even figure out which part is my favorite! (There is just sooo many high points.)
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  28. failboat Member

    Lawrence Wright: Why Tom Cruise Is Most Important Scientologist Since L. Ron Hubbard

    This is a 3-page interview. More at link, comments open.,0
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  29. Budd Member

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  30. Anonymous Member

    Although that WGN interview looks like a local interview in a local news outlet's studio, WGN is one of Chicago's major local stations, like WGBH in Boston, or KCAL & KTLA in Los Angeles. WGN's broadcast area covers almost all of Illinois, and parts of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan.
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  31. The Wrong Guy Member

    Knopf U.S. investigating publishing Scientology tell-all in Canada

    Ontario’s libel laws are much tougher on publishers than similar legislation in the U.S., where freedom of speech has a premium value

    By Greg Quill

    Lawrence Wright’s highly buzzed book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, may eventually be available in Canada, pending a review of Canadian libel laws and the book’s chances of being dragged into lengthy and expensive litigation by the Church of Scientology, says a spokesman for New York-based publisher Alfred A. Knopf.

    “Knopf U.S. holds the Canadian rights to the book and due to the tight publishing schedule, a Canadian legal review was not completed at the time of the U.S. publication,” the company representative said in a prepared statement.

    “Given the differing legal systems in the US and Canada, Knopf decided not to make the book available for distribution in Canada at the present time until such legal review is completed.”


    Canadian retail book chain Chapters Indigo, which briefly advertised the book for sale on its web site last week, is also steering clear of Going Clear.

    “This book has not been published in Canada, nor has it been purchased by Indigo Books & Music Inc.,” the company said. The book has also been withheld in Britain, whose libel laws are even tougher on publishers than Canada’s.

    The renowned litigious practices of the Scientology organization, which denounced the book as fallacious and factually deficient, didn’t stop, the Canadian arm of Seattle-based Internet retailer, from making the book available across Canada on its web site last week, where it was being sold for $15.56 plus shipping and handling.

    On Monday, however, the book was mysteriously marked “unavailable” on, but was still for sale on, with no limitations.

    The company did not respond to the Star’s request for an interview by press time.

    This may be the first time the mere fear of libel action has blocked a book’s publication in Canada, says Bill Harnum, president of the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP).

    If the Church of Scientology is going to make a legal strike against Going Clear, it will likely be in Canada, because our libel laws are more favorable to alleged victims of defamation, book industry insiders say.

    Those laws make Canada excellent libel chill territory, says Franklin Carter, editor and researcher for Canada’s Book and Periodical Council’s Freedom of Expression Committee.

    “Libel chill — the fear of getting sucked into an expensive, open-ended court battle for publishing something negative but true about a wealthy person or organization — isn’t new,” Carter says.

    A recent decision (Grant Vs. Torstar Corp) that allows material published responsibly, and in the public interest, to be defended in defamation cases, has done little to mitigate the chill, he claims.

    Full article:
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  32. muldrake Member

    Canada's and the UK libel laws are a mixed bag, and as an American, I prefer ours.

    However, in favor of these libel laws, Scientology cultists hold two record-breaking libel judgments in Canada. One was against Justice Casey Hill. Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto. In 1995, this was the largest libel verdict in Canadian history. The other was against fugitive fuckup George Chelekis.

    Similarly, in the UK, Bonnie Woods won a libel judgment against the cult for their Dead Agenting attacks.

    Meanwhile, in the U.S., Cynthia Kisser, who was targeted with some of the vilest and most reprehensible libel in history, was unable to obtain a libel verdict against the cult.

    Still, I think Knopf is being too timid in not publishing in Canada. While Canadian defamation law is closer to that of the UK than it is to the U.S., they still win there. Also, the Canadian legal system is less tolerant of the overkill, spend them into the ground approach that prevails in U.S. courts.
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  33. DeathHamster Member

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  34. DeathHamster Member

    In Hill v. Church of Scientology Toronto, I believe that libel arguments from other Common Law counties (that includes you USA) were considered. I don't know if any of them were carried forward, but they weren't ignored. (Probably to do with the fairly new Charter of Rights and Freedoms at the time.)

    Hmm, here we go:
    Ha! Scientology was trying to argue that American law should be used.

    The Supreme Court upholding the Court of Appeal decision is legal poetry. They couldn't have been more direct, to the point and damning.
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  35. muldrake Member

    Among other things leading to the large verdict was that the cult, upon losing the case, immediately repeated the libel on the very steps of the courthouse. That didn't exactly endear them to the court.

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  36. Anonymous Member

    Damn, you're funny!
  37. The Wrong Guy Member

    Lawrence Wright paints a troubling portrait of Scientology - San Antonio Current

    By Michael Barajas

    This two-page article, with open comments, is worth reading.

    First paragraph:

    In lawsuits, plaintiffs routinely file "interrogatories," questions defendants must answer as a case heads to discovery. By far, the strangest I've ever seen surfaced in a San Antonio court: "Admit or deny that forcing Scientology employees to lick bathroom floors is a religious practice of the Church of Scientology."
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  38. Anonymous Member

    By the way - I noticed today that Janet Reitman's book is now available on Amazon in kindle version for only 2.99. I think her publisher decided to capitalize on Going Clear and sell some more of Janet's book. Ironically, it's now number 1 in Scientology genre.
    So not only Wright brought a lot of publicity to the topic of Scientology, he is also helping bring back other books that by now have been forgotten.
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  39. anoninoob Member

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  40. Sam Urai Member

    Or other books that were forgettable.

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