More Shop Talk

(Another in a continuing series of anecdotes and observations about the writing game.)

Thomas Merton was recommended to me by two people when I was floundering. I read his autobiography, Seven Storey Mountain, and I even visited the monastery where he lived (though he had long since passed).

He was an accomplished writer and young man of the world who renounced it all, left the big cities where he drank and caroused and was developing a solid reputation among the literati, to utterly efface himself for the rest of his life, a man of language and the world joining a monastery in rural Kentucky where silence was the rule.

He wrote this about himself when he was in the world, before he entered the Trappist monastery: 

“I was convinced that it was important for me to have my work printed in magazines like the Southern Review or Partisan Review or The New Yorker. My chief concern was now to see myself in print. It was as if I could not be quite satisfied that I was real until I could feed my ambition with these trivial glories…to see myself externalized in a public and printed and official self which I could admire at my ease. This was what I really believed in: reputation, success. I wanted to live in the eyes and mouths and the minds of [others].”

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