Fame is the undercurrent of Going Clear, and in the Hubbard chapters we see an aspirant striving for wealth and fame while sitting at a typewriter. For all Hubbard's flaws he was a working selling writer who wanted to be a rich one; then, like now, a man who desired a fortune ought go into industry or finance, so there's merit in his choice of haphazard occupation. Hubbard's inability to tell the truth, and his powers of make-believe are startling, and one can imagine the modern horde of like-minded comic-influenced writers of that over-hyped fantasy genre praising such qualities in a peer.
But there's something inherently dishonest about artistic fame-seekers. Joseph Epstein, writing in The Weekly Standard eight years ago, took a shot at Celebrity and writers who strive for it:
Writers are supposed to be aristocrats of the spirit, not promoters, hustlers, salesmen for their own work. Securing a larger audience for their work was not thought to be their problem. "Fit audience, though few," in John Milton's phrase, was all right, so long as the few were the most artistically alert, or aesthetically fittest. Picture Lord Byron, Count Tolstoy, or Charles Baudelaire at a lectern at Barnes & Noble, C-SPAN camera turned on, flogging (wonderful word!) his own most recent books. Not possible!
Hubbard failed Epstein's standards, standards that have been abandoned by most all writers today, writers who rush to pose, appear, and gush at every opportunity. Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding may or may not be a good novel, but his advance was enough to garner a Bloomberg interview about his windfall, an interview he freely granted, presumably straight-faced. Hubbard would be proud.
The boring majority of Going Clear is focused on Hollywood celebrity, not the writer's search for fame, and the post-Hubbard years of the book turn into a gross kind of star-rubbernecking-fucking. Despite a teenage obsession with Brooke Shields, I've never granted celebrities any special dispensation, and can't understand the public's need for insight into the lives of remarkably boring albeit pretty people. Subjects like Cruise and Travolta remain risible, even if they subscribed to no religion.
Going Clear isn't so much a history or investigation into faith as it is a padded issue of People Magazine. Readers of The Looming Tower will be disappointed, but likely the book isn't meant for them.