Though best known for his spiritual writings, Thomas Merton also made drawings, whose Eastern-style brushwork have a meditative power rivaling that of his finest prayers. In Dialogues with Silence
, these (mostly unpublished) drawings--of human figures, churches, the crucifixion, and abstract forms--are paired on pages with the texts of his well-known prayers. Editor Jonathan Montaldo's introduction to this volume asserts that Merton, the author of classics including The Seven Storey Mountain
, became a:
witness for his generation of the way out of self-defeating individualism by tracking anew the boundaries of that ancient other country, whose citizens recognize a hidden ground of unity and love among all living things.
He might have added that, for Merton, one direct escape from individualism was the act of loving other individuals, an aspect of Merton's character that shines clearly in the many portraits here. Notably, the most arresting of these images is a face without features. It hovers next to a prayer that begins, "O God, my God, why am I so mute?" --Michael Joseph Gross
From Publishers Weekly
Like his beautifully crafted letters and journals, Merton's prayers and drawings reveal his multifaceted personality, his hunger for God and his passion for providing others with a glimpse of the path to union with God. Jonathan Montaldo, who directs the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine College in Louisville, Ky., collects here for the first time Merton's black-and-white line drawings along with the monk's prayers, most of which have been previously published. The effect is stunning, for the drawings and prayers are printed on facing pages. The stark realism of Merton's art startles and prepares the soul for the prayer on the opposite page. For example, opposite a drawing of a humble Mary, he prays: "Lady, Queen of Heaven, pray me into solitude and silence and unity, that all my ways may be immaculate in God.... Let me... disappear into the writing I do. It should mean nothing special to me... its results should not concern me." Opposite a half-formed figure, Merton prays: "My God, I pray better to You by breathing/ I pray better to You by walking than by talking." While some readers will wonder why the world needs another book of Merton's writings when these prayers are available already, Merton's art provides a glimpse of his journey never before seen. Merton fans will certainly welcome this new addition to their already burgeoning shelves. (Nov.)Forecast: Publishing Thomas Merton's writings has become a small cottage industry, and Harper San Francisco holds the key to the cottage door. As long as there are treasures to be mined from Merton's life and writings, expect more little volumes like this.
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