From the time they first met as undergraduates at Columbia College in New York City in the mid-1930s, the noted editor Robert Giroux (1914–2008) and the Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton (1915–1968) became friends. The Letters of Robert Giroux and Thomas Merton capture their personal and professional relationship, extending from the time of the publication of Merton's 1948 best-selling spiritual autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, until a few months before Merton's untimely death in December 1968. As editor-in-chief at Harcourt, Brace & Company and then at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Giroux not only edited twenty-six of Merton's books but served as an adviser to Merton as he dealt with unexpected problems with his religious superiors at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky, as well as those in France and Italy.
These letters, arranged chronologically, offer invaluable insights into the publishing process that brought some of Merton's most important writings to his readers. Patrick Samway, S.J., had unparalleled access not only to the materials assembled here but to Giroux's unpublished talks about Merton, which he uses to his advantage, especially in his beautifully crafted introduction that interweaves the stories of both men with a chronicle of their personal and collaborative relationship. The result is a rich and rewarding volume, which shows how Giroux helped Merton to become one of the greatest spiritual writers of the twentieth century.
"This volume provides Thomas Merton readers with a unique perspective on his development as a published author and a deepened appreciation of Robert Giroux's role in fostering that development. The book is both a lively and enjoyable read and a significant resource for students and scholars researching various aspects of Merton's prolific writing career. It will lead to new perspectives on and to a more nuanced understanding of the development of Merton's wide-ranging interests in monastic life and religious renewal, in social and political issues, in interreligious dialogue and literary criticism, and in numerous other fields." —Patrick F. O'Connell, editor of Thomas Merton: Selected Essays
"The Letters of Robert Giroux and Thomas Merton is an important historic record of the emergence and development of one of the great spiritual writers of the twentieth century and of his long friendship and working relationship with one of the great editors of the time. In these letters, carefully and unobtrusively edited and annotated by Patrick Samway, S.J., we see the ups and downs of Merton’s literary affairs against the background of the rapid changes taking place both in the church and in the world during these years. With the advent of email and the demise of the art of letter writing, this book is a testament to a fast disappearing era and the immense value to be found in the literary and historical records contained in such exchanges." —Paul M. Pearson, director, Thomas Merton Center
“Robert Giroux, a great editor and publisher, was also a great friend, and Thomas Merton's correspondence with him—steady, tight in focus, rich in detail, frankly affectionate—makes clear how fully editing and publishing, for Giroux, was an act of friendship. That is no surprise. The surprise is in seeing, through these letters, how deeply Merton's vast and various body of work was grounded in friendship—in the desire to share all that he had come to know with the people he loved.” —Paul Elie, author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own