Fiona Gruber reviews 'Fair Game: The incredible untold story of Scientology in Australia' by Steve Cannane

Fiona Gruber reviews 'Fair Game: The incredible untold story of Scientology in Australia' by Steve Cannane

Fair Game: The incredible untold story of Scientology in Australia

by Steve Cannane

ABC Books $32.99 pb, 378 pp, 9780733331329

When you join the Church of Scientology, you sign a contract for a billion years. You are then audited with the help of a machine called an ‘E Meter’, which helps uncover areas of conflict and blockages in your current life and previous ones. The goal, after undergoing an intensive and expensive course of study into the theories and practice of the Church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, is to go ‘clear’. This state, one of utmost analytical clarity, gives one the ability to achieve goals impossible in a ‘pre-clear’ state. Each step costs thousands of dollars, but the rewards, say adherents, are worth it. Alongside the anonymous rank and file, Scientology can count many celebrities among its present or former members. These include John Travolta, Tom Cruise and (formerly) Nicole Kidman, James Packer, and Australian rugby league stars Joe Reaiche and Pat Jarvis.

So how did Hubbard, a small-time science fiction writer, end up as a man of such influence? His Californian roommate from the 1940s, newspaperman Nieson Himmel, is quoted as saying, ‘whenever [Hubbard] was talking about being hard up, he often used to say that he thought the easiest way to make money would be to start a religion’. At that point, Hubbard – depressed and dabbling in occultism – was on a veteran’s pension from the US Navy.

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Published in December 2016, no. 387
Fiona Gruber

Fiona Gruber

Fiona Gruber is a journalist and producer with twenty years experience writing and broadcasting across the arts as a commentator, profile writer, and reviewer. She currently divides her time between Australia and the UK.

Gruber's work has appeared in The Australian, The Times Literary Supplement, Australian Book Review, The Guardian, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Opera Now, History Today, and Art World Australia.

Her profiles of well-known writers and playwrights include John Banville, Margaret Drabble, Simon Callow, Marina Warner, A. L. Kennedy, Francis Wheen, Michelle de Kretser, Toni Jordan, David Francis, Jane Smiley, Angus Trumble, Chris Womersley, David Harrower, Richard Bean, Jez Butterworth, and Moisés Kaufman.

For ABC Radio National alongside sporadic appearances as an opinionated commentator on hot topics, Gruber has made a series of features on writers, artists, theatre makers, and explorers for The Book Show, Books and Arts Daily and Hindsight. These include artists John Wolseley and Vera Möller, writers Robert Macfarlane, Patricia Cornelius, Charlotte Wood, Francis Wheen and Alex Miller, actor Lisa Dwan, and explorer John Helder Wedge.

Gruber also worked for ABC TV as a researcher and producer on its Sunday Arts program.

She produced and hosted The Opening a live-to-air weekly radio arts show on PBSFM between 2003–10, notable for its mix of the very local with the rather famous. And in 2011 she was a regular on ABC 774 talking arts with veteran presenter Derek Guille.

Gruber received a Green Room Award in 2005 for co-founding and hosting ‘Gert's Sunday Salon’, a raffish arts and cabaret club in Melbourne’s Fitzroy.

In 2013 Fiona Gruber started a series of podcasts for the Melbourne Theatre Company which explore ideas around the plays on stage, the wider world of theatre, and the even wider world influencing stage selection.

Alongside her journalism she's currently finishing off a biography of nineteenth-century Australian entrepreneur Alice Cornwell: Victorian gold miner, proprietor of the London Sunday Times, and breeder of miniature black pug dogs.

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