LOVE AND LIVING by Thomas Merton


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A solid but unremarkable collection of essays by the man who looks more and more like the most significant figure in modern American Catholicism. Merton had a wide-ranging, uncloistered intelligence; a passion for Eastern religions and radical Western politics; and a spare, dry, sometimes quite felicitous style. All these qualities are in evidence here, although none of the 21 pieces (a disparate selection from his later work) is particularly striking in itself. Melton writes feelingly, for a Japanese audience, of the ""One Solitude in which all persons are at once together and alone."" He has an interesting discussion of the Cargo Cults of the South Pacific, and the light they cast on Western imperialism and racism. He hunches a number of eloquent attacks on the ""demon of total war."" But mostly he deals with the classic themes of Christian spirituality--love, self-surrender, temptation, etc.--from the perspective of ""a guilty bystander"" (to quote the title of an earlier book); i.e., a monastic outsider who casts a critical eye on a hateful-lovable world in which he is deeply implicated. Merton turns in a few dull or perfunctory performances, but only a few. For the most part he's thoughtful and thought-provoking, an original voice worth listening to. Not vintage Merton (see his Secular Journal, Seeds of Contemplation, Asian Journal, etc.), but pretty good stuff nonetheless.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1979
ISBN: 0156538954
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux