On Thomas Merton

On Thomas Merton

by Mary Gordon


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A probing, candid exploration of Thomas Merton's life and writing from best-selling novelist and memoirist Mary Gordon.

Thomas Merton (1815-1968) was a Trappist monk, poet, essayist, activist, and author of some of the most influential spiritual writing of the 20th century. He entered the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani in Kentucky as a young man in his twenties, seemingly abandoning the promising literary career that lay before him. But from the silent cloister in which he spent all but the last few weeks of his life, his influence spread worldwide through his writing, primarily on topics related to the spiritual life—a subject which he demonstrated to be very broad indeed. His life of dialogue led him to explore a range of contemplative practices, particularly Buddhism, and he was one of the pioneers in raising awareness of Buddhist philosophy and practice among Westerners.

Mary Gordon, as a Catholic in critical dialogue with her church, came to explore Merton relatively late in her own journey, becoming fascinated with him as a fellow writer. She documents her exploration of Merton through his books—the ups and downs of the experience, areas of disagreement and sympathy, of annoyance and, ultimately, deep connection. It is a profoundly personal view of one of the great spiritual figures of our age, by an interpreter who, while disinclined to go easy on her famous subject, nevertheless reveals a great admiration and fascination with his life and work.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611807677
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication date: 01/07/2020
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 787,848
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

MARY GORDON is a novelist, essayist, memoirist, literary critic, and the McIntosh Professor of English at Barnard College. She is the author of many books, including Final Payments, Circling My Mother, Reading Jesus, The Shadow Man, and The Company of Women. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award, an O Henry Award, and an Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In March 2008, Governor Eliot Spitzer named Mary Gordon the official New York State Author and gave her the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction. She was inducted as a member of the inaugural class of the New York Writers Hall of Fame in 2010.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

December 8, 1949

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


A.B., Barnard College, 1971; M.A., Syracuse University, 1973

Table of Contents

1 Writer to Writer: But What Kind? 1

2 The Seven Storey Mountain 41

3 My Argument with the Gestapo 63

4 Tire Journals 87

Notes 135

Works Cited 143

Credits 145

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