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The Seven Storey Mountain Paperback – October 4, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

In 1941, a brilliant, good-looking young man decided to give up a promising literary career in New York to enter a monastery in Kentucky, from where he proceeded to become one of the most influential writers of this century. Talk about losing your life in order to find it. Thomas Merton's first book, The Seven Storey Mountain, describes his early doubts, his conversion to a Catholic faith of extreme certainty, and his decision to take life vows as a Trappist. Although his conversionary piety sometimes falls into sticky-sweet abstractions, Merton's autobiographical reflections are mostly wise, humble, and concrete. The best reason to read The Seven Storey Mountain, however, may be the one Merton provided in his introduction to its Japanese translation: "I seek to speak to you, in some way, as your own self. Who can tell what this may mean? I myself do not know, but if you listen, things will be said that are perhaps not written in this book. And this will be due not to me but to the One who lives and speaks in both." --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Harcourt is pulling out all the stops for this 50th-anniversary edition of Merton's spiritual masterpiece. In addition to the full text, this enhanced version includes an introduction by Merton's editor, Robert Giroux, and a reader's note by biographer and Thomas Merton Society founder Fr. William Shannon. The book comes with a cloth binding and a ribbon marker. Merton's faithful fans will be in seventh heaven over this glorious edition.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Anv edition (October 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156010860
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156010863
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (468 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has millions of copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race.

After a rambunctious youth and adolescence, Merton converted to Roman Catholicism and entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, a community of monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists), the most ascetic Roman Catholic monastic order.

The twenty-seven years he spent in Gethsemani brought about profound changes in his self-understanding. This ongoing conversion impelled him into the political arena, where he became, according to Daniel Berrigan, the conscience of the peace movement of the 1960's. Referring to race and peace as the two most urgent issues of our time, Merton was a strong supporter of the nonviolent civil rights movement, which he called "certainly the greatest example of Christian faith in action in the social history of the United States." For his social activism Merton endured severe criticism, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who assailed his political writings as unbecoming of a monk.

During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk's trip to the Far East in 1968, the Dali Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. It was during this trip to a conference on East-West monastic dialogue that Merton died, in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, the victim of an accidental electrocution. The date marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of his entrance to Gethsemani.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

207 of 211 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Thomas Merton's early years gave no clue as to the vast richness of spirit and intellect he would develop through out his life and share through his writings. He was the son of an itinerant painter, had an upbringing with little or no religious character, was a nondescript student, a rabble rouser.. not even a Catholic.. who at a point in his early manhood left the fast life of New York and knocked on the doors of a Kentucky monastery, to give over his life to austere ascetic contemplation.. and profound internal enrichment. Seven Story Mountain has been compared to the Confessions of Augustine, but these books are of different timber. Merton's is a story told at a personal level, of a spiritual journey in a modern context. It does not try to compete with Augustine's intense intellectual and theological reasoning, preferring to dwell on the challenges and joys of religious life, and more generally the meaning and responsibilities of all lives. You can't read this book without being charmed and blessed by the proximity to this rare bit of humanity and devotion in our very secular and material age.
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84 of 86 people found the following review helpful By B. Warrick on December 1, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read and reread this book several times, and I always enjoy going back into the first half of the 20th century and taking the journey to faith with Thomas Merton, as he moves from childhood to self-absorbed teen to a dabbler in communism, to writer/intellectual, to searcher, to Catholic, to Trappist monk. What a journey!
Merton writes in a clear, matter-of-fact, self-depreciating style that is quite attractive. He makes the reader feel as "if this too, could happen to them", because Merton himself is portrayed as just a common man - filled with sin and propensity for wrong decision-making, but on the road to God nevertheless.
Merton shows us that our religious conversion is more than just a point in time: it is a journey in God.
I would especially recommend this book to young adult Catholics and those who were not in the Catholic Church during the pre-Vatican II period. The book goes into a fair amount of detail regarding Merton's experience in that Church, and for this reason, might be of interest to those who have come into the Catholic Church since the mid-1960's.
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150 of 160 people found the following review helpful By Joanna D. #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Thomas Merton was brilliant, skilled at literary criticism, a poet, analytical and creative. His sense of self, however, was a mixture of deep introspection and a measure of self-loathing. His spiritual seeking led him to a short stay with Trappist monks in Kentucky. As a result, he gave up his worldly career and embarked on a journey of spiritual seeking as a brother at the monastery.

Merton loved music, women, good food, yet he also had a yearning to be free of the world. He describes the ascetic diet at the abbey--meat is forbidden, even fish not eaten, and the monks do heavy agricultural work on bread, vegetables, cheese, and in the evening, maybe a small dish of applesauce. Despite the hardships, Merton finds that becoming a priest is the most meaningful thing ever to happen to him. This book is his memoir of becoming a priest and his spiritual climb from a self-indulgent youth to a mature man continually on the search for spiritual peace and enlightenment. Thus the title "seven storey mountain" aptly taken from the mountain of Purgatory in Dante's Divine Comedy--a place of punishment, though temporary, on the way to Heaven.

Merton's writing made him so famous he sought a hermitage at the abbey. He never seemed quite comfortable anywhere. His sense of discomfort with himself and his exquisite sensibility to spiritual heights make for fascinating reading.
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86 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Mark Blackburn on June 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
Today I delivered a gift copy of this book to a widow, "Grace" whose husband had been my late father's closest childhood friend. A week earlier, Grace had asked: "Have you ever read Thomas Merton's SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN? I read it in 1953; and found it very moving. I'd love to find a copy and read it again."

When I presented her with a new copy of this edition, I asked if I could read aloud my favorite passage (early in the book) concerning Thomas Merton's `little brother' John Paul (five years younger) who, like his older brother was a French-born, American citizen.

Late in the book Thomas Merton tells us how John Paul was compelled early in WWII to join the Royal Canadian Air Force (and trained right here in Manitoba! John Paul Merton had been flying bombing runs over a real sandy desert on the prairie just outside nearby Camp Shilo, where today's Canadian Artillery Officers still train. My late father was flown at Canadian Army expense each year, late in life, to address the graduating officers at that camp: Small world!)

Just before leaving for overseas, John Paul flew to see his older brother Thomas and, not incidentally, be Baptized, and welcomed into the Catholic faith. Then he left for England (and was killed in action the next year, when his RAF bomber went down over the English Channel).

His death provides the moving culmination to this book - bringing the reader `full circle' from the moment (back on page 25) when Thomas Merton introduces us to John Paul. (What follows is the passage that moves me to tears when I read it aloud to a friend.
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