THOUGH THE DETAILS MAY BE FOGGY, the story should be familiar to any Oregon native: In 1981, the cult leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh emigrated from India to the tiny town of Antelope, Oregon, with a cadre of loyal followers. Through bullying and sheer voting power, the new citizens of Antelope (rechristened Rajneeshpuram) took over the town's police force, school, and the newly renamed Adolf Hitler Recycling Center.
Besides testimonials from ex-Rajneeshees, this piece of recent Oregon lore has never been examined to the extent it deserves. Win McCormack, a writer who won an award for writing monthly columns examining Rajneeshpuram during its existence, seems like a prime candidate for the job. How, then, can he justify The Rajneesh Chronicles—a rambling shell of a book and the laziest true crime account I have ever read?
Chronicles reads like the notes McCormack should have been making for the real book he was going to assemble. The book begins with a dull timeline of the cult, filled with anecdotal notes about land-use law infractions and non-incidents. The rest of the book is filled with newspaper articles—most of them by McCormack himself—laid out chronologically.
Devoid of any narrative, analysis, or even a stated reason why anyone in 2010 should care about this all-but-inactive cult, Chronicles fails to make a case for itself. Best wait for someone to arrange the research McCormack has done into something readable.