There’a a wealth of material on Thomas Merton, so I’m going to list some of the better known biographies and critical works here for anyone who might be interested in learning more about Merton.
Here are some important biographies:
Living With Wisdom: A Life of Thomas Merton by Jim Forest (Orbis Books, 1991).
Merton: A Biography by Monica Furlong (Harper & Row, 1980).
The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton by Michael Mott (Houghton Mifflin, 1984).
The Man in the Sycamore Tree–The Good Times and Hard Life of Thomas Merton: An Entertainment by Edward Rice. This is a biographical portrait of Merton with reminiscences of him by one of his close friends from Columbia. Rice became a distinguished journalist and writer as well. (Image Books, 1972).
When searching books on Merton on Amazon and the library I’ve found more material on Merton in relation to Catholic thought, spiritual direction, activism, peace, philosophy and ecumenism than I have what might be considered straight literary criticism. However, here are some works on Merton from a lit-crit perspective:
The Art of Thomas Merton by Ross Cabria (Texas Christian University Press, 1979).
Thomas Merton, Monk and Poet: A Critical Study by George Woodcock (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1978).
Thomas Merton by Victor Kramer (1984). This is a volume in the always useful Twayne’s United States Authors Series.
Walking With Thomas Merton: Discovering His Poetry, Essays, and Journals by Robert Waldron (Paulist Press, 2002)
Here’s a book that examines Merton’s artwork:
Angelic Mistakes: The Art of Thomas Merton by Roger Lipsey (New Seeds, distributed by Random House).
I was looking up Merton on Amazon and encountered this title:
Popology: The Music of the Era in the Lives of Four Icons of the 1960s by Timothy English (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013). This books examines the role music played in the lives of John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Thomas Merton. When Merton went into Louisville on various errands or appointments, he liked to catch live jazz–he had always enjoyed jazz–and enjoy some bourbon, scotch or beer (or maybe a little bit of each). According to the blurb for this book, Merton liked John Coltrane, Dylan, and the Beatles and was “obsessed” with Joan Baez’ version of the old folk ballad “Silver Dagger.” Interesting stuff.
Here’s a link to the International Thomas Merton Society at Bellarmine University in Louisville.
Here’s a link to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky:
I’ve visited the Abbey of Gethsemani, and it’s a special place–that will be the topic of a future blog. Certain parts of the abbey are off-limits to visitors, but there’s still plenty to see, and you can visit Merton’s gravesite. The abbey has retreat options available–check out their website for information.
Trappist monasteries, like other monasteries, usually have some kind of unique goods produced for sale to help sustain themselves and to give to charities they support. The monks of Gethsemani produce excellent cheeses, fruitcakes, and fudge. I haven’t tried their cheese or fruitcake yet, but I’ve had their bourbon fudge, which I thought outstanding. They also sell coffee from a monastery in Nicaragua. If you are interested in purchasing any of these items, you can access their catalog through the link above.