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Showing 1-10 of 54 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 77 reviews
on June 28, 2014
This book is definitely not a page-turner, but the scholarship is outstanding and the author provides a nice encapsulation of the careers, lives, writings, and philosophies of the four individuals treated, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Walker Percy, and Mary Flannery O'Connor. Personally, I would have preferred a much more closely edited version and believe rather strongly that Elie could have gotten his message across more effectively in less words. I found myself scanning over many of the pages, especially those dealing with Walker Percy, whose philosophy, writings, and life achievements appear dwarfed compared to those of, say, Merton or Day, who are far and away the towering figures in this book. Flannery O'Connor, the eccentric in the group, was well presented, and I found her to be, in many respects, more interesting than the other three individuals. That said, I think the author's best work was in his treatment of Merton. This was enough to spark my interest in the man, and I am now in the process of reading his The Seven Storey Mountain. My thanks Paul Elie for the substantial amount of research and hard work he put into this project.
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on June 13, 2015
I am listening to this through Audible on my ECHO
and listening on my Ipad. Now, I want the book...
as a cross reference to the listening. I had this book
but wasn't ripe enough to read it. And now, I can listen
longer than I can read so the new format of Audible is
perfect! and with ECHO I can fill the house while I putter
or simply celebrate thru the art of listening.
This is a HUGE undertaking...and conceptually a mind mapping
of the best and brightest who have had an influence on many of
my generation.
First, I am grateful to the author... whatever grace shook you into
starting sustained you to complete it.
Second, the Audible format (and range of listening options) allows
me to sustain my engagement with work of this magnitude.
Third, the book will help me to index the audio chapters... in a way
that isn't possible otherwise.
Also... the 'voice' of the reader has a resonance with the material
that is authentic and consistent across hour after hour... truly amazing.

The organization of the material across each Pilgrim... is brilliant and
makes the Mind-Mapping deeply spiritual while being historically composed.
Perhaps, I am just now ripe enough myself to appreciate this...
I don't think so... though a listening heart would be an asset.
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on October 22, 2011
As someone who came of age when these four authors reached their floruit in the early sixties, and who drank water from their well even then, I enjoyed reading this book greatly. It was during this time that American Catholicism became a force in the wider culture, thereby changing itself from anti- to pro-modernist, symbolized by the election of John Kennedy, the papacy of John XXIII, and the embrace of the Jesuit evolutionist Tielhard de Chardin by most, if not all, of the heroes of this book. I do, however, have several remarks. First, if these four authors were at the core of a unified literary movement it was primarily through the ministrations of several book editors, Robert Giroux and Caroline Gordon in particular. Elie reports on their web-weaving but they could have had interesting and informative chapters to themselves. Is it an accident that Elie is not only a book editor himself, but Giroux's successor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux--yes, that Giroux? There would never have been a phenomenon named Thomas Merton without his old Columbia buddy Giroux. As for Caroline Gordon, who knew Dorothy Day in her wild bohemian days, appreciated O'Connor, and coached Percy (badly), she comes across less well: as in fact a busy body who seemed to flaunt her Catholicism in the same way Claire Booth Luce did. Second, the gap between the clerical culture of the Catholic church and its progressive wing grew wider and wider in the late sixties. This fact should have been better drawn if the story Elie tells is to make sense in its context. This is because these four figures acquired lasting fame among Catholics because, along with Tielhard, they became retrospective (and in some ways miscast) heroes of the lost battle against the clerical counter-revolution whose tragic consequences are there for all to see. Elie's book springs from this construction of the significance of his four heroes. It is being read, I presume, by people to whom, like myself, this matters. This fact should not go unnoticed. Third, everyone has their limitations, and Elie's strengths as a literary man are inseparable from his weaknesses in reporting on philosophical issues. What makes Catholicism as a culture unique is that its theology is, or was, built on a highly developed philosophical foundation. Catholics can lose their faith without losing its distinctive form of reason. Here we encounter a gender gap. Day went admirably to work with the poor, rolling up her sleeves. She got along with clerics because in all abstract matters she deferred to authority without thinking much about it. O'Connor waxed philosophical only when she encountered Teilhard in the early sixties, when she had reluctantly to confront the civil rights movement and (far less successfully) her own racism. But Merton, like Augustine, had a philosophical conversion before he had a religious one. Elie duly reports it as having something to do with Etienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain, but he does so in a sketchy and garbled way. The same is even more true of Percy. For someone who can guide you through the philosophical issues, and their political implications, I recommend Garry Wills. Finally, the context in which this Catholic counter-culture emerged was highly colored by the threat of atomic annihilation. It is the fact that secular modernity had brought the world to this pass (and to the Holocaust) that made it plausible for intelligent people to think about how to bring the virtues of pre-modernity into the modern world. As one who has tried to teach the Cold War to students who were born after the collapse of the Soviet Union, I can say: you had to have been there to see how it could turn you into an existentialist. This context, too, could have been sketched better. All and all, though, a book that I am grateful to its author for writing.
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on February 16, 2013
Elie did a remarkable job in drawing on all of the writing -- published books and essays, stories, letters and so forth -- and gaining insight into the development of these four subjects as religious seekers and as writers. I knew of them and had read many of their works but I did not recognize how aware they were of one another. I was also surprised by the involvement of so many prominent literary figures in their recognition and advancement. The book helped me to find a better understanding of Flannery O'Connor's work, which I have admired even though I found it difficult to grasp and a keener insight into the novels of Walker Percy. Merton and Day are what they have always been but the candor of their journals and letters adds to their stature. Elie's use of a chronological narrative line does much to illuminate the currents of thought and art in the eventful years following World War ll. This is a very significant book.
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on October 20, 2012
This is one of those books, like The Metaphysical Club, that enlightens about a whole period and ties together people one has read separately. As someone who grew up in the generation after these writers, the book is a key to the thought patterns of my own elders. The least of the figures here is Walker Percy, who, really, only wrote one masterful work (The Moviegoer), and seems to have been not very interesting. The others are powerful persons in their own right. The ones I know best are Merton and Day, and Elie does an excellent job with them and their lives. One strand of the period that is not quite emphasized as much as it could have been (though it is there) is the resurgence of medieval philosophy as an alternative to Descartes and modern philosophy generally. This would have tightened the references to Aquinas, Marcel, etc., and even allowed for Heidegger to make an appearance. It would have heightened the strangeness of the Kierkegaard/Dostoyevsky/Hopkins/Scotus/Aquinas synthesis that seemed so prevalent among Catholic intellectuals in the 60s. (You can find it even in figures like Marshall McLuhan). Another strand could have been the rise of archetypal philosophy (Suzanne Langer gets a brief mention), which moved people like Pollock from surrealism to universalism. But you can't have everything.

The footnotes are an education in themselves!!!
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on May 31, 2016
A 20th Cent Am Lit overview via the Holy Faith as expressed by four diverse souls seeking salvation in Christ. O'Connor's genius made this one catch the eye. Great insight into the Georgia author. Had never heard of Percy and will look further into his body of work as the Crescent City is an olde haunt. Greater respect for Dorothy Day and even more leery of Merton than before. Saint Joseph, Pray for us to be healed and saved on our pilgrim journey.
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on January 27, 2008
I bought this book because I am a devotee of Flannery O'Connor, and I have read and been enchanted by both Merton's and Day's autobiographies. The author's approach to the lives of these four Catholic writers is unique and seems at first to be somewhat of a stretch. The connections between most of them are tenuous at best - Merton and Day had a long-running correspondence, but O'Connor only was only ever in direct contact with Percy, for instance. However, the connections they made during their lives, though interesting, are not really the point of this book. What the four really had in common was their writing, religion, and their approach to similar themes during an overlapping era, as well as the enduring influences that they had on each other and on other writers (the author mentions John Kennedy Toole, etc.).

All four sought to define through their work the roll that religion plays in the modern world and in their own lives, and this book gives a particularly insightful and well analyzed overview of how each of them went about this all-important task. The author has clearly done a great deal of research. The contemporary commentary he includes about each author is fascinating.

This book was particularly interesting to me because I am quite familiar with most of Flannery O'Connor's work, and it was wonderful to finally be able to connect her stories to her life and to the time and place she was writing from.

I highly recommend this to all searchers, and to those interested in that which is mysterious in life and religion. This book should be read by all people interested in Catholicism in America, religion in the modern work, and in literature or American History in general.
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on November 23, 2013
Really loved the way Elie wove together the four separate stories of these 20th Century Catholics, but leans a lil' too far to the left at times with that trendy type of pretentious animosity for the Church
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on March 28, 2014
Kudos to "The Life You Save..."
Reading this 555-page book --at first glance-- may seem like a daunting task. However, as a fan of Flannery O'Connor, I was drawn to read how the author, Elie Paul, skillfully discusses four American Catholic writers of the 20th century, seamlessly weaving their stories into a coherent whole. Thomas Merton, Walker Percy and Dorothy Day and Flannery O'Connor trod different paths in their search for God through their fiction and non-fiction. Each author brought a specific message which the reader can easily apply to living in the 21st century. You won't be disappointed in this book.
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on July 30, 2017
A great book in which the author weaves the story of four of the Roman Catholic's best 20th century authors;Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Flanery O'Connor and Walter Percy!
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