The Sign of Jonas First Edition, Kindle Edition
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About the Author
- ASIN : B003WJQ62W
- Publisher : Mariner Books; First edition (November 18, 2002)
- Publication date : November 18, 2002
- Language : English
- File size : 860 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 379 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #342,933 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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The journal entries that comprise this book vary considerably in style, tone, and content, but there are basically two types: Many of the entries, especially in the first half of the book are narrative, for instance, describing Merton's consternation over what he sees as a conflict between his writing and his need to live the contemplative life. This sense of inner discord is exacerbated by, on the one hand, his fame resulting from the publication of SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN and his desire (perhaps temptation) for the more hermit-like life of the Carthusian. His superior in religious life, the abbot, essentially orders him to (1) write and (2) forget about the Carthusians, and he is obedient to his abbot as the expression of God's will. Merton's descriptions of his monastic surroundings are lyrical and painterly. The narrative entries are furthermore peppered with good humor, both droll ("There is certainly something very touching about lambs, until they find their way into holy pictures and become unpleasant" [p. 168]") and childlike (during one of the services, he is distracted by the hunting scene depicted on the shirt of one of the postulants: "What disturbs me especially is that one of the huntsmen, on a very fat horse, is riding directly through the middle of the pack of hounds, at right angles to the apparent direction of the chase. And I say to him, `Where do you think you're going?' when my mind ought to be on the psalms" [p. 208]).
The other major type of journal entry focuses on aspects of the spiritual life. These passages are beautiful, often abstruse, and occasionally exceedingly dense. They are suitable more for meditation than for simple reading pleasure. About halfway through the book, when Merton is ordained a priest, he becomes especially consumed by his new role and enraptured by the Mass. This in part reflects a pre-Vatican II understanding of the Mass that was more personal and less community-focused. For this reader, anyway, these passages are, though initially interesting, eventually a bit trying. Fortunately, Merton grows into his priesthood, and his writing reflects this, becoming less inward and self-absorbed. At the very end of the book, in the Epilogue called `Fire Watch," he is able to successfully join narrative and spiritual writing for a final meditation.
THE SIGN OF JONAS depicts Merton at a point in his life at which his ideas and thoughts are still maturing. It is, however that may be, a stunning piece of work. For my part, I found it more moving than SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN. In fact, I think it is one of the best pieces of 20th-century Catholic spiritual literature, a book that I found both edifying and a pleasure to read.
Also revealing are Merton's laments about his assignment as a writer. He found writing to be an unpleasant task causing great dispeasure and dissatisfaction. Over time, after his ordination, writing provided the quiet and solitude he sought. But he was a harsh critic of his own books. This is what he wrote in his journal about Seeds of Contemplation:
"There is nothing to be proud of in this one, either. It is clever and difficult to follow, not so much because I am deep as because I don't know how to punctuate, and my line of thought is clumsy and tortuous. It lacks warmth and human affection."
Although there is some truth in his self-evaluation, it cannot be said about The Sign of Jonas that it lacks warmth and human affection. And his poetic style shows in several entries. The Sign of Jonas is certainly in the "top 10" of Merton's books and will be read again.