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Kirkus ReviewsThis volume of journals reveals Merton in his late 40s, already pulled by the tension between spiritual interiority and social activism that was to characterize his final years.
By 1960 Merton was an internationally renowned figure. His bestselling Seven-Storey Mountain (1948) had been ranked alongside St. Augustine's Confessions, and in a steady stream of books and articles he had explored monastic spirituality in a way that seemed fresh and relevant to a wide public. The themes in this volume of his journals show a definite shift away from his earlier otherworldliness. Kramer (English/Georgia State Univ.) has divided the manuscript chronologically into four parts. We see Merton at last obtaining the unusual permission from his abbott at Gethsemani to live in a hermitage, yet meeting a growing number of thinkers and representatives of other faiths in his retreat. Even before Vatican II begins, he is involved in the issues of liturgical reform, ecumenism, and especially the Church's attitude to the modern world. The Cuban missile crisis and the apparent inevitability of nuclear war loom large. Merton considers the need for Christians, including himself, to speak out against the Vietnam War and social segregation, while the writings of Hannah Arendt and the Eichmann case force him to think more deeply about the Catholic understanding of obedience. These pages are characterized more by breadth than depth. Although there is much personal questioning, spiritual musing, and notes from Merton's extensive reading and worldwide correspondence, most readers would do better to turn to Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1966), which contains the developed fruits of these jottings.
Strictly for Merton connoisseurs.