On Thomas Merton

Mary Gordon. Shambhala, $24.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-61180-337-2
This brilliant, incisive work from biographer, novelist, and memoirist Gordon (Reading Jesus) examines the relationship—and tension—between 20th-century Christian philosopher Thomas Merton’s dual roles as writer and monk. Gordon approaches her subject through four facets of Merton’s writing life: his relationship with the church that censored him; his bestselling memoir, The Seven-Story Mountain; his novel My Argument with the Gestapo; and his private journals (which Gordon quotes from extensively). The author depicts a man often in conflict with himself and his church, a man who felt compelled to write and yet who hated being pressured to write: “I am sickened by being treated as an article for sale, as a commodity... God have mercy on me,” and later, “Today I feel hateful, and miserable, exhausted, and I would gladly die... Abbot Dom James [his host and patron] is in absolute control of a bird that everyone wants to hear sing.” The section on his journals, where Merton expressed himself freely, is the strongest part of the book—particularly Gordon’s reaction to entries written shortly before Merton’s death in 1968. “Because this flawed mess of a man lived every day with fullness, with a heartfelt passion,” Gordon writes, “I close the journal, and I weep.” Readers will be just as affected by this intelligent, moving book. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/08/2018
Release date: 12/04/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-1-61180-767-7
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