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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: Rapidly Expanding My Library's Merton Holdings 
27th-Mar-2009 12:54 pm
Thomas Merton OCSO
Last week, as I was reading the relevant section in Michael Mott's authorized biography The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton, I had the good luck to suddenly have an urge to look on eBay for a copy of the letters between Thomas Merton and Robert Lax published as A Catch of Anti-Letters. (And I note the coincidence that seraphimsigrist should just have happened to be writing about Robert Lax.) That lead me to someone who happened to be selling a trove of Merton material, most starting at a dollar or two. Last week she sold a few dozen books, of which I picked up 20 for $34, which normally would have been the price for merely two or three of the twenty, used. Several of these were rather rare. I lost two of the auctions I most wanted to win, because I didn't bid over $20 for the two rarest texts. But as far as building up my academic research library for Merton material, I was still outrageously lucky. This week she sold another couple dozen texts, most of which I picked up with no contest, bringing my total to 47 books all told, for which I would have paid some hundreds of dollars even with used or Amazon discounted prices. Like I said: lucky. I even bought five or six texts I already owned, if no one else was bidding on them at 99 cents – just to give away; although I think I remember that my long-lost copy of Thoughts on the East has been in Langers' possession, though by now that's been for so long that it's effectively his, leaving me needing a replacement. Anyway, even by the prices of Merton books on eBay, these were exceptional prices, with many difficult-to-find texts that this reader had collected over a few decades. So I'm doing the Academic's Dance of Joy.

On the other hand, I've had the bad luck of being unable to sleep for longer than an hour or two at a stretch all week, and am quite fuzzy in many respects, so a small part of my brain kept in reserve is hoping that this math isn't a delusion on my part because that would be bad.
Raids on the Unspeakable by Thomas Merton (1966)
The Waters of Siloe by Thomas Merton (1979)
The Ascent to Truth by Thomas Merton (1981)
The Sign of Jonas by Thomas Merton (1979)
Seeds of Destruction by Thomas Merton (1980)
Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice by Thomas Merton (1984)
The Nonviolent Alternative by Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (1972)
Dialogues With Silence: Prayers & Drawings by Thomas Merton, edited by Jonathan Montaldo (2004)
Day of a Stranger by Thomas Merton (1981)
The Silent Life by Thomas Merton (1957)
The Living Bread by Thomas Merton (1980)
Seasons of Celebration: Meditations on the Cycle of Liturgical Feasts by Thomas Merton (1983)
The New Man by Thomas Merton (1999)
Praying the Psalms by Thomas Merton (1956)
Opening the Bible by Thomas Merton (1986)
Bread in the Wilderness by Thomas Merton (1986)
Life and Holiness by Thomas Merton (1995)
The Climate of Monastic Prayer by Thomas Merton (2005)
The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton (1970)
Thomas Merton on Saint Bernard by Thomas Merton (1980)
Woods, Shore, Desert: A Notebook, May 1968 by Thomas Merton, edited by Sarah Nestor (1983)
Thomas Merton in Alaska: The Alaskan Conferences, Journals and Letters (Prelude to the Asian Journal) by Thomas Merton (1989)
The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton by Thomas Merton (1973)
Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas Merton (1968)
Gandhi on Non-Violence: A Selection From the Writings of Mahatma Gandhi by Mohandas K. Gandhi, edited by Thomas Merton (1965)
Thoughts on the East by Thomas Merton (1995)
Introductions East and West: Foreign Prefaces of Thomas Merton by Robert Daggy, ed. (1981)
My Argument With the Gestapo: A Macaronic Journal by Thomas Merton (1969)
Original Child Bomb: Points for Meditation to be Scratched on the Walls of a Cave by Thomas Merton (1961)
Cables to the Ace; or, Familiar Liturgies of Misunderstanding by Thomas Merton (1986)
Selected Poems of Thomas Merton by Thomas Merton (1967)
In The Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems of Thomas Merton by Lynn R. Szabo; Kathleen Norris, forward (2005)
The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton edited by Patrick Hart (1985)
A Catch of Anti-Letters by Robert Lax and Thomas Merton (1978)
School of Charity: The Letters Of Thomas Merton On Religious Renewal And Spiritual Direction by Thomas Merton, ed. Patrick Hart (2003)
Survival or Prophecy?: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Jean LeClercq edited by Patrick Hart (2002)
The Springs of Contemplation: A Retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani by Thomas Merton, Jane Marie Richardson

The Monastic Journey of Thomas Merton by Patrick Hart (1978)
Thomas Merton's Dark Path: The Inner Experience of a Contemplative by William H. Shannon (1987)
Merton Annual: Studies in Thomas Merton, Religion, Culture, Literature, and Social Concerns, Volume 1 ed. Robert E. Daggy (1988)
Merton Annual: Studies in Thomas Merton, Religion, Culture, Literature, and Social Concerns, Volume 2 ed. Robert E. Daggy (1989)
Merton Annual: Studies in Thomas Merton, Religion, Culture, Literature, and Social Concerns, Volume 3 ed. Robert E. Daggy (1990)
Merton Annual: Studies in Thomas Merton, Religion, Culture, Literature, and Social Concerns, Volume 4 ed. Robert E. Daggy (1991)
Silent Lamp: The Thomas Merton Story by William H. Shannon (1992)
Follow the Ecstasy: The Hermitage Years of Thomas Merton, 1965-68 by John Howard Griffin (1993)
Contemplation and Compassion: Thomas Merton's Vision by Anthony T. Padovano (1984)
27th-Mar-2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
What a coincidence! Today I signed up as a borrower at Heythrop Library (academic staff get free borrowing rights at all other University of London libraries) and promptly headed for the Thomas Merton shelf, where I decided to start with The Seven Storey Mountain. Do you have any recommendations for other good starting points or progressions in reading Merton and about Merton?
28th-Mar-2009 12:50 pm (UTC)
The Seven Storey Mountain is as good a starting point as any, given the autobiographical nature of so much of Merton's writing: journals, experiential reflections, and so forth. It's misleading, on a certain level, because it is so parochially Catholic, particularly given how quickly and dynamically his Catholicism grows from that point on. So while central to understanding Merton, it is, paradoxically, not at all representative of his full corpus.

His life past SSM is a tremendous story in itself, so a biography is a good parallel text to have. Mott's authorized The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton is thorough, and especially good on a level of his literary significance, but it's huge, which is off-putting for some readers. I wouldn't read anything before that one, though, because Mott had access to the private journals which were restricted until their publication in the mid-1990s, and there's much of Merton's life that was inaccessible without those. I've not read much of the rest of the biographies yet.

A smaller, digestible spiritual text might not be bad in addition, such as his Thoughts In Solitude. No Man Is An Island is very highly regarded, and I love a lot about Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, although that's a very journal-derivative text, non-linear, and best read in bits and pieces. I read it over the whole of a calendar year, so that's probably not ideal for most readers. Many people, I'm told, find The Sign of Jonas to be their favourite Merton text, although I've yet to read it, myself, having just purchased it.
28th-Mar-2009 01:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
(Deleted comment)
28th-Mar-2009 12:53 pm (UTC) - Re: Oh Man!
Eh, it's a miscellany for sure, but I've found some stuff in Disputed Questions to be helpful or interesting, so why not? Again, in light of the answer I gave above, just so that it's understood that it's not the most representative thing in the corpus.
27th-Mar-2009 07:08 pm (UTC) - wow
what a great catch! I am always looking for used Merton books-wow!
28th-Mar-2009 12:54 pm (UTC) - Re: wow
Which is exactly why I didn't advertise my success until the auctions were complete: I didn't want any more competition than I'd already have!
27th-Mar-2009 07:35 pm (UTC)
well done Mike and
gosh from your userpic youre
even beginning to look like Tom!
having no such luck I am as you see
28th-Mar-2009 12:55 pm (UTC)
Not so! I'm still too into my hair!
30th-Mar-2009 02:19 am (UTC)
You have a lot of books.
30th-Mar-2009 01:36 pm (UTC)
Indeed. And you, my friend, have a lot of rock.

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