The story of a monk, a minstrel, and the music that brought them together
My initial interest in this book was the monk, Thomas Merton, which was the result of a visit to the Trappist monastery hermitage in Snowmass, Colorado when I was a student at Western State University in Gunnison. I was impressed by the contemplative lifestyle and asked one of my professors why someone would join such a group, “Read Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain, Professor Fay said, “as he describes his growing restlessness in search of peace and faith, which would lead him at age twenty-six to take vows of one of the most demanding Catholic Orders.”
And as I describe in my book, Different Latitudes, “I went on to read many of Merton’s books, some of which descry his attempts to find a balance between this contemplative lifestyle and the desire and need to express himself as an author—a balance I would often struggle with myself, although I was never really cut out for that level of isolation.”
As a Boomer, I was also interested in the period of our history where music was so creative and reflected the challenges and polemic of our time. I used lyrics from the Rock music to express the transition in my own life and one memorable nine-hour drive from Crested Butte, Colorado to Oklahoma City to deliver some furniture to a professor I was working with, “a grueling nine-hour drive back was made easier listening to “Many a Mile to Freedom,” by Traffic and a few of my other favorites by Dave Mason, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, Jethro Tull, Steely Dan and Blind Faith. As much as I enjoyed this music’s incredible mix of blues and jazz the lyrics reflected the anxieties and issues of the decade: the Vietnam War, racial tensions, inflation and unemployment and environmental calamity, as well as the battle over women’s equality.” I was never a big fan of Bob Dylan until he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”—not bad…
The book when writer-activist-monk Thomas Merton fulfilled a twenty-four-year dream and went to live as a hermit beyond the walls of his Trappist monastery. Seven months later, after a secret romance with a woman half his age, he was in danger of losing it all. Yet, on the very day that his abbot uncovered the affair, Merton found solace in an unlikely place—the songs of Bob Dylan, who, as fate would have it, was experiencing his own personal and creative crises during the summer of 1966.
In this striking parallel biography of two countercultural icons, Robert Hudson plumbs the depths of Dylan’s surprising influence on Merton’s life and writing, recounts each man’s interactions with the woman who linked them together—Joan Baez—and shows how each transcended his immediate troubles and went on to new heights of spiritual and artistic genius. The story takes various, interesting twists and the reader will discover what the publishers correctly call, “a riveting story of creativity and crisis, burnout and redemption, in the tumultuous era of 1960s America.”
The chronological structure of the book is reflected in its chapter titles: Prologue: Sunday, March 6, 1966 -- Part one. Utopian hermit monk (April 1941 to August 1965) -- A new man -- Manuscript accepted -- The call to solitude -- This little house -- Dylan interlude no. 1: Bringing it all back home -- Part two. She speaks like silence (March to July 1966) -- The invented backbone -- Silver dagger -- The absurd man -- The soundtrack -- Dylan interlude no. 2: I do believe I've had enough -- Part three. The lonesome sparrow sings (July 1966 to October 1968) -- Sort of a Bob Dylan thing -- The American Villon -- A new consciousness -- Prophetic voices -- Dylan interlude no. 3: Join the monk -- Ascension -- Epilogue.
David Dalton, the founding editor of Rolling Stone Magazine, writes an insightful foreword….”It was a culture mired in hypocrisy, greed, and corruption on an industrial scale. Things were bad, very bad. The world’s far worse off now than it was in 1966, the difference being that back then we at least thought we could do something about it. In this wasteland, Merton saw his antipoetry as performing a prophetic and cathartic function using phantasmagoric transmutation, perversion and verbal contortion…”
He goes on to say, “The basic idea of The Monk’s Record Player is to throw two eccentric characters possessed of genius in the same life raft, along with himself. So now you have three men in the drunken boat. It’s a sort of Mad Hatter’s tea party, except instead of riddles, nonsense, poetry, and a dormouse, Hudson’s book mulls over a wide range of ideas, theories, and philosophies and he obviously doesn’t have any qualms about putting them all into the mix…”
The author is a recognized Bob Dylan scholar, a member of the International Thomas Merton Society, and a veteran editor who has worked with a number of best-selling authors. He is the author of The Christian Writer's Manual of Style: 4th Edition--a volume that has become a standard reference in Christian publishing. His first volume of poetry, Kiss the Earth When You Pray, was published in 2016. His articles and poetry have appeared in Christianity Today, The Other Side, The Mennonite, The Seneca Review, Mars Hill Review, and other magazines and journals.
• Hardcover: 263 pages
• Publisher: Eerdmans (March 14, 2018)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0802875203
• ISBN-13: 978-0802875204
• Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
• Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
• Customer Reviews: 4.9 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
• Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
o #2599 in Religious Leader Biographies
o #415 in Christian Institutions & Organizations (Books)