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Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton on the Vocation of Writing
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Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton on the Vocation of Writing

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  68 ratings  ·  13 reviews
When Thomas Merton entered a Trappist monastery in December 1941, he turned his back on secular life—including a very promising literary career. He sent his journals, a novel-in-progess, and copies of all his poems to his mentor, Columbia professor Mark Van Doren, for safe keeping, fully expecting to write little, if anything, ever again. It was a relatively short-lived re ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 13th 2007 by New Seeds
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Alonzo
I enjoyed this book, but didn't get a lot out of it as far as the "vocation of writing" is concerned. It is more memoir-ish, dealing with Merton's own vocation. And that leads to another concept: I think it has to do with his vocation to be a Catholic monk and a writer. Vocation in the narrower/earlier sense: i.e. a calling, rather than the more broader/more current sense of a career/job. And I really expected more about writing itself--as a skill/practice. There is some of that, but as you prob ...more
Maria
"Echoing Silence" by Thomas Merton is actually a compilation of his writings from 1948 until his death on the 'vocation of writing.' While he had begun writing as a teenager, it was his struggle with integrating "the demanding integrity of art into the even more demanding integrity of Christian asceticism" that is reflected in the excerpts in this book.

Thomas Merton converted to Catholicism in 1938 and joined a Trappist order in 1941 and as a monk, Merton thought his writing career was over. Bu
...more
Luke Storms
Publisher Comments:
When Thomas Merton entered a Trappist monastery in December 1941, he turned his back on secular life--including a very promising literary career. He sent his journals, a novel-in-progess, and copies of all his poems to his mentor, Columbia professor Mark Van Doren, for safe keeping, fully expecting to write little, if anything, ever again. It was a relatively short-lived resolution, for Merton almost immediately found himself being assigned writing tasks by his Abbot--one of w
...more
Ali M.
This isn't a book about the art and craft of writing, which threw me off at first. It really is about writing as a vocation– an occupational calling. Specifically, it is a posthumous collection of letters and excerpts that outline Merton's attitudes toward writing, its place in the world, and its place in his own life.

That attitude shifts and changes a lot over the course of Merton's life as a Trappist monk (and, later, a student of Zen). Since the letters in each section are arranged chronolog
...more
Sophfronia Scott
I picked up this book because I love how Thomas Merton in his other writings speaks of the word "vocation"-- how it fits in a person's life and what it means to find one's vocation. I was eager to see what he had to say on the subject in terms of writing because he was so prolific and quite gifted. But I was disappointed to find this book is a compilation of bits and pieces from Merton's books, essays, and letters. While I found helpful, even inspiring, parts here and there it's not the same as ...more
Richard Houchin
Merton reads like a man who loves life struggling to rationalize his own suicide. The anti-human philosophy of Christian theology runs through Merton's thoughts like streams of offal through a neighborhood creek.

This is clearest when reading about the Catholic censors and their effect on Merton's writings, as well as when reading the sad progression of letters from Merton to his abbot. It's like watching a suicide -- what a waste.

Merton's views on advertising are amusing, however! It's a shame
...more
Ellen
It was hard not to underline every sentence. A lot of great stuff in here. But, I guess I had expected a complete book written by Merton specifically about writing and writing as vocation. This is simply an edited volume, a compilation of different things Merton wrote throughout his life about writing, in letters, journals, and books. So, it's not an extended, cohesive philosophy on writing presented by Merton himself, which was really what I was hoping for.
Grace
A friend of mine loves Merton and goaded me into reading this book. Me-- I don't get Merton so much; he doesn't seem to speak to where I am right now. I forced myself to read it. (Additionally, this book is made up of choppy little excerpts, so has no flow).
Greg Johnson
Jul 17, 2009 Greg Johnson is currently reading it
Merton's writings on writings. Invaluable to writers, particularly writers concerned about conscience and who write from a Christian perspective. Life altering.
Ann
I give it four stars only because of the fragmentary nature of the book. Most of the fragments were wonderful, and will lead me to more Merton I haven't yet read.
Brian
Writers should be contemplatives, and vice versa. Merton says that much better so you should read this for that reason.
David Hirt
Important for any Christian writer.
Jonathan
Nov 21, 2009 Jonathan added it
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writing as a vocation-- 1 2 Jan 22, 2008 06:31AM  
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Thomas Merton was one of the most influential Catholic authors of the 20th century. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, in the American state of Kentucky, Merton was an acclaimed Catholic spiritual writer, poet, author and social activist. Merton wrote over 60 books, scores of essays and reviews, and is the ongoing subject of many biographies. Merton was also a proponent of int ...more
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