cover image The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals

The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals

Thomas Merton. HarperOne, $28 (374pp) ISBN 978-0-06-251620-6

""A path through the woods"" is the description Hart and Montaldo (Merton's last secretary and a Merton lecturer, respectively) give to this condensation of the diaries faithfully kept by Merton before and throughout his 27 years as a Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani monastery in Kentucky. ""Woods"" serves as metaphor for Merton's full body of autobiographical work, encompassing the journals published during his life and the seven volumes that remained unpublished for 25 years after his death in 1968. This manageable portrait of Merton's inner and outer life, beginning in 1939, is condensed from the seven volumes and will likely suffice for all but Merton scholars and the most devoted aficionados. Merton's restlessness, his frustration with censorship of his anti-war writings and his affinity for nature are portrayed here. Readers are privy to his dreams and his experiences of divine and human love, including details of his secretive love affair. The volume ends as abruptly as his life, cut short at age 53 by accidental electrocution in Bangkok, where he was exploring Asian religions. The path cleared by Hart and Montaldo, worthy guides to this terrain, is a boon for busy readers, who will turn to Merton's journals not only for information about his life but to learn, from his spiritual self-scrutiny, more about themselves. (Dec.)