Reading: “The Seven Storey Mountain”
I just finished re-reading this book, and I got a lot more out of it the second go-round. The first time I read The Seven Story Mountain, Merton’s rambling about mundane behaviors and situations got boring quick. (I still feel like this book could have been 50-100 pages shorter.) This time, I still felt like Lax and his other friends weren’t nearly as interesting as Merton wanted us to think they were, mainly because they weren’t developed as characters, but in a second reading, I got why he told us about them. I’ll also grant that Merton’s writing is stylistically strong, and for the most part, he does make his point that living a rootless life was pretty empty. However, on the other side, I’d liked to have read more about his epiphanies than about his wanderings. Nonetheless, as an adult convert to Catholicism myself, I appreciated his realizations about selflessness and giving one’s self over to God’s will, and as a writer myself, I understood his inability to leave his writer-self behind when he entered the monastery. The strength of The Seven Storey Mountain is its hopeful trajectory, not to a feel-good easygoing kind of Christianity, but to an acknowledgment that getting closer to God is hard work. The downside of it is that the long-winded manner in which Merton ambles toward that theme will turn off a lot of readers who will read the early sections, wonder what his point is, and put the book down before they get to the best parts.