cover image The Road to Joy: Letters to New and Old Friends

The Road to Joy: Letters to New and Old Friends

Thomas Merton. Farrar Straus Giroux, $27.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-374-25123-9

Thomas Merton successfully lived an apparent paradox: a contemplative monk who wrote books, poems and essays and maintained a lively, voluminous correspondence. This collection of his letters, the second in a projected five-volume series, ranges from the mildly interesting to the truly inspiring. While too many fall into the former category, Merton's wit, vitality and intelligence animate the collections in flashes of wisdom and insight that are well worth the required sifting. Of his decision to take monastic orders, Merton writes about choosing `` . . . between a world that belongs in a book by John O'Hara and one that belongs in a book by St. Theresa of Avila. . . . '' Particularly charming are his letters to young people, in which he follows his first rule of good writing: never talk down to anyone. While not among the most substantial of his writings, this volume will find an appreciative audience among Merton enthusiasts. Daggy is curator of the Thomas Merton Center in Louisville, Ky. (Aug.)