On Our Shelves Now
From the best-selling novelist and memoirist: a deeply personal view of her discovery of the celebrated modern monk and thinker through his writings.
“If Thomas Merton had been a writer and not a monk, we would never have heard of him. If Thomas Merton had been a monk and not a writer, we would never have heard of him.”
So begins acclaimed author Mary Gordon in this probing, candid exploration of the man who became the face and voice of mid-twentieth-century American Catholicism. Approaching Merton “writer to writer,” Gordon illuminates his life and work through his letters, journals, autobiography, and fiction. Pope Francis has celebrated Merton as “a man of dialogue,” and here Gordon shows that the dialogue was as much internal as external—an unending conversation, and at times a heated conflict, between Merton the monk and Merton the writer.
Rich with excerpts from Merton’s own writing, On Thomas Merton produces an intimate portrait of a man who “lived life in all its imperfectability, reaching toward it in exaltation, pulling back in anguish, but insisting on the primacy of his praise as a man of God.”
About the Author
Mary Gordon is the author of eight novels, including There Your Heart Lies, The Company of Women, and The Love of My Youth; six works of nonfiction, including Joan of Arc: A Life and the memoirs The Shadow Man and Circling My Mother; and three collections of short fiction, including The Stories of Mary Gordon, which was awarded the Story Prize. She has received many other honors, including a Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She teaches at Barnard College and lives in New York City.
“Ardent, heartfelt, headlong: with these words Mary Gordon lovingly penetrates to the core of Thomas Merton’s ongoing importance, but the same words apply to her achievement. Gordon is the ideal reader of Merton, matching his intelligence, irony, and authentic feel for the world beyond words. Her book brings his books back to life, and belongs with them from now on.”—James Carroll, author of Constantine’s Sword and The Cloister
“Only a writer as talented as Mary Gordon could have written about a writer as talented as Thomas Merton. I've read dozens of books about my hero, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, and suspected that I couldn't learn much that was new. Mary Gordon's fascinating new book proved me wrong. She opens up an essential side of Merton's life--his life as a writer--in a way that helps me understand him an entirely new, and entirely surprising, light."—James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage and Becoming Who You Are
“Brilliant, incisive.... intelligent, moving.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Merton devotees and those wishing to learn more about him will appreciate this detailed look at his accomplishments and struggles.”—Library Journal
“.... An ideal introduction to Merton for literary readers.”—Booklist
“[Mary Gordon] brings to this book on Merton what he himself often offered others: the frank convictions of a practiced teacher, the certainty of an established critic, and the sympathy of a successful writer who is equally aware of struggle.”—America
“If Merton is to remain a living voice, it is from such honest and steadfast devotion as Mary Gordon’s On Thomas Merton.”—New York Journal of Books