THE HERMITAGE JOURNALS by John Howard Griffin

THE HERMITAGE JOURNALS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Monk Like Me--that had been Griffin's working title for the diaries he kept while doing a biography of Thomas Merton in the solitude of Merton's hermitage near the Trappist monastery at Gethsemani, Ky., from 1969 to 1971. The title was dropped (fortunately), and the biography was never finished: Griffin had to give it up because of various diseases (diabetes, kidney trouble, lung congestion, and a weak heart) that eventually claimed his life in 1980. But the journals have survived, and they are splendid. Griffin, who was a convert to Catholicism and a good friend of Merton's, threw himself into the project with the same sort of personal-religious passion he had brought to Black Like Me ten years before. The result is an intensely felt, driving, sensuous account of adventures in a ""world charged with the grandeur of God."" Griffin made a total of 16 trips to the hermitage, generally staying a week to ten days at a time. The visits were, first of all, a chance for Griffin to relive Merton's spiritual experience while reading his manuscripts and blocking out the biography. (By an extraordinary coincidence Griffin almost died Merton's death from electrocution when lightning struck the lead-in wire connecting to his typewriter.) But, more important, they were blissful retreats from his frenetic workaday routine in Fort Worth to the serene Kentucky countryside, a flight from Babylon to Sinai. Except for his accident, practically nothing ""happened"" to Griffin at the hermitage; but he seizes on the smallest details--the foxes and squirrels at his doorstep, a quiet mass with some monk friends, the pleasures of drinking hot coffee on a frosty morning--and infuses them with lyric energy. The odd, intriguing legacy of two unusual men.

Pub Date: Dec. 4th, 1981
Publisher: Andrews & McMeel