Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Thomas Merton's American Prophecy

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Thomas Merton's American Prophecy

Article excerpt

Thomas Merton's American Prophecy. By Robert Inchausti. (Albany: State University of New York Press. 1998. Pp. x, 210. Paperback.)

Of the writing of books about Merton there is no seeming end. This is not a lament, just a statement of a publishing fact-of-life. Thomas Merton's American Prophecy, one of the more recent texts to analyze this century's most famous American monk, is a very fine entry indeed into the ranks of his thoughtful commentators. The author is professor of English at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

The task Inchausti sets himself is significant and provocative: to place the figure he calls "a God-intoxicated man" (p. 142) within the wider literary and intellectual fabric of his time. Merton emerged as an "intellectually engaged dynamo" (p. 128), as the "premier American outsider in that international cadre of honest souls" (p. 151) that includes George Orwell, Albert Camus, Simone Weil, Arthur Koestler, Boris Pasternak, and Czeslaw Milosz.

The text provides a concise biography of Merton (not excluding the item that he was under FBI surveillance for counseling Vietnam-era draft resisters), and is especially helpful in discussing The Seven Storey Mountain as a "vast moral reclamation project" (p. …

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