The Monk’s Record Player

In 1965 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. Readers will discover here a riveting story of creativity and crisis, burnout and redemption, in the tumultuous era of 1960s America.


“There are many books about Merton already, but Robert Hudson, merging his fascinations with Merton and Dylan, writes so limpidly that shelf room just must be made for this one.”

“Robert Hudson’s revealing ‘parallel biography’ shows how two of the most prolific and influential figures in the 1960s, both perpetually restless spiritual pilgrims, shared a passion for prophetic poetry, an opposition to the war in Vietnam, and a boundless inquisitiveness. In this enjoyable and insightful book Hudson connects dots that other Merton scholars have overlooked.”
—Steve Rabey, best-selling author and journalist—Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

“A warm and vivid picture of two very different but unexpectedly related countercultural icons in that extraordinary mid-sixties moment of hope and imaginative enlargement. This book enables us to see some of the deep currents of that era and to reacquaint ourselves with two great, unclassifiable figures.”
—Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canturbury

“Artfully demonstrates how the minds of two individual cultural icons merge with a message that all the world needs to hear. Difficult to put down once you open the first page and begin to read.”
—John W. Whitehead, president, Rutherford Institute; author, Battlefield America and A Government of Wolves

“A gloriously detailed account of two solitary yet world-famous artists in a decade that still bears surprising fruit. Hudson’s book takes you on an unexpected journey with Merton and Dylan—an enlightening, challenging, and refreshing hiatus from the demands of our digital age.”
—Scott M. Marshall, author, Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life

“You may think, as I at first did, that pairing a Utopian hermit monk and a demon-haunted rock star is just plain perverse or at the very least willfully paradoxical. But there you’d be dead wrong. . . . In the end it’s Bob Hudson’s love for Thomas Merton and Bob Dylan that’s the alchemical fire that makes [this book] work. As curious as this cockamamie pairing is, The Monk’s Record Player is a meditation on inspiration, contact highs, and the unknowable workings of the cosmos.”
—David Dalton, founding contributing editor, Rolling Stone (from the foreword)

“Hudson weaves a fun tale of cross-cultural influence in this exploration of Bob Dylan’s influence on Thomas Merton.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Hudson informs and enthralls readers. . . . This book is a profound meditation of apparent contradictions. Any adult interested in U.S. history and culture, religion, philosophy, art, literature, or music will enjoy this well-written and very readable book.”
—Christian Market

“Fascinating. . . . While Nobel Prize winner Dylan has always maintained a distinct celebrity, Merton’s renown has dimmed somewhat, and it’s nice to see this crusader for world peace introduced to a new generation of readers in such an intriguing way.”
—Library Journal

“Entertaining. . . . One does get the sense that Dylan would have liked Merton as much as the monk admired and emulated him.”

“The unlikely pairing of Dylan and Merton is the charm of the book. . . . Delightfully difficult to classify. Neither scholarly disquisition nor celebrity bio, it is rather history in the form of a fable: not dark but rather light comedy. It is light that illumines, finally, a direction home: through solemn vows, a solidarity born of forgiveness, and at least a touch of rock-and-roll.”

“Runs circles around any mere biographical treatment of either Father Merton or Dylan. . . . This book teaches lessons in spirituality the reader may not expect but from which he or she will benefit deeply.”
Catholic News Service