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Collection of Hollywood faith tales fails to separate hooey from holy


This is the cover of "Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends." The book is reviewed by Kurt Jensen. (CNS)

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"Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends" by Mary Claire Kendall. Franciscan Media (Cincinnati, 2015). 224 pp., $16.99.

Presenting lives of a few Hollywood entertainers of the previous century as examples of Christian, and specifically Catholic, faith is fraught with peril.

Spiritual journeys are intensely personal and private. Additionally, those in the public eye are accustomed to shaping their own narratives for the widest possible audience, and all in Mary Claire Kendall's "Oasis" used, during their lifetimes, publicists and ghostwriters adept at spinning a narrative of triumph over life's pain and disappointments.

The public often whiffs the bunkum of the old traveling medicine shows when actors outside of a worship setting discuss their Christian beliefs. Hence, Stephen Sondheim's acidly cynical lyric for an aging actress in "I'm Still Here": "Reefers and vino, rest cures, religion and pills, and I'm here."

Kendall doesn't bother to extricate the hooey from the holy as she cobbles narratives from biographies, clips from newspaper obituaries and the occasional blog post from IMDb, a popular Internet source for movie, TV and celebrity news and information. She presents 12 compact life stories, with their connections, usually involving conversions during crises, to Catholic faith and practices.

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