The remarkable development of Thomas Merton―monk, poet, and social critic―as documented in nearly thirty years of correspondence with his publisher.Thomas Merton may have seemed an unlikely candidate for a best-selling author. Cloistered in a remote Kentucky monastery, Merton struggled as a young man to reconcile the contemplative life he sought as a monk and his very public passion for writing. Publisher James Laughlin saw Merton's talent and played the muse, encouraging him with the poems, essays, and diaries of other writers and publishing nearly everything Merton sent in return.
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Thomas Merton (1915-1968) entered the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, following his conversion to Catholicism and was ordained Father M. Louis in 1949. During the 1960s, he was increasingly drawn into a dialogue between Eastern and Western religions and domestic issues of war and racism. In 1968, the Dalai Lama praised Merton for having a more profound knowledge of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. Thomas Merton is the author of the beloved classic The Seven Storey Mountain.
David D. Cooper is a professor in the Department of American Thought and Language at Michigan State University.
New Directions, an enterprise created by Laughlin, has served as the publishing house for many seminal figures in 20th-century literature. This usefully and unobtrusively footnoted volume, edited by Cooper (American thought and language, Michigan State Univ.), brings together the most representative of the extant correspondence between Laughlin and his author Thomas Merton. As an addition to Merton's growing body of work (most recently, Dancing in the Water of Life, LJ 6/1/97, Volume 5 of his journals), it offers a cogent perspective on Merton the writer. The development of his thought and his grappling with the thorny questions of what are appropriate avenues for exploration while remaining true to his vocation all add further dimension to our understanding of this very complex and irrepressible figure. While the majority of the letters are Merton's to Laughlin, the latter nonetheless emerges as an important nurturing force. For Merton collections and those concerned with 20th-century literary history.?Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., N.Y.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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