In 1965, I reported in these pages on the New York World’s Fair. At that event, I was wandering around in the Protestant and Orthodox pavilion where a smorgasbord of offerings to gods both known and unknown (to me) were vying for attention. Even as I tried to breeze by, the representatives of the Church of the New Jerusalem/Swedenborgian stopped me. They offered me brochures, invitations and explanations. Foolishly, I responded with a half-truth and an attempt to brush them off: “I know all about Swedenborgianism.” The inviter-in-chief, who had now stepped out of the booth to speak with me, asked, “What do you know about Swedenborgianism?”
How I wish I had had Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (Bloomsbury, $19.95). Instead, embarrassed that I, a historian of religion, knew very little about the New Church, I stammered, blushed and lied my way to the next exhibit. Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell was beyond me.