On Thomas Merton
“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.”
"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
"Merton devotees and those wishing to learn more about him will appreciate this detailed look at his accomplishments and struggles." —Library Journal
"[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." —Ron Hansen, America