Combined Academic Publishers

Pure Act

9780823268016: Hardback
Release Date: 22nd September 2015

9780823276820: Paperback
Release Date: 3rd April 2017

9780823268030: Electronic book text
Release Date: 22nd September 2015

9780823268023: Electronic book text
Release Date: 22nd September 2015

Dimensions: 152.4 x 228.6

Number of Pages: 472

Series Catholic Practice in North America

Fordham University Press

Pure Act

The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax

A biography of experimental poet and spiritual seeker Robert Lax, who inspired Thomas Merton, Jack Kerouac and many others. Using information and stories drawn from journal entries, letters, interviews and the author’s personal recollections, the book chronicles the development of Lax’s distinctive poetic style and a spontaneous, spiritual approach to life he called pure act.
Hardback / £48.00
Paperback / £14.99
Electronic book text / £12.99
Electronic book text / £12.99

Excellence in Publishing Award, Association of Catholic Publishers
Honorable Mention, Catholic Press Association Book Award
Finalist, Washington State Book Award

Pure Act tells the story of poet Robert Lax, whose quest to live a true life as both an artist and a spiritual seeker inspired Thomas Merton, Jack Kerouac, William Maxwell and a host of other writers, artists and ordinary people. Known in the U.S. primarily as Merton’s best friend and in Europe as a daringly original avant-garde poet, Lax left behind a promising New York writing career to travel with a circus, live among immigrants in post-war Marseilles and settle on a series of remote Greek islands where he learned and recorded the simple wisdom of the local people. Born a Jew, he became a Catholic and found the authentic community he sought in Greek Orthodox fishermen and sponge divers.

In his early life, as he alternated working at The New Yorker, writing screenplays in Hollywood and editing a Paris literary journal with studying philosophy, serving the poor in Harlem and living in a sanctuary high in the French Alps, Lax pursued an approach to life he called pure act―a way of living in the moment that was both spontaneous and practiced, God-inspired and self-chosen. By devoting himself to simplicity, poverty and prayer, he expanded his capacity for peace, joy and love while producing distinctive poetry of such stark beauty critics called him “one of America’s greatest experimental poets” and “one of the new ‘saints’ of the avant-garde.”

Written by a writer who met Lax in Greece when he was a young seeker himself and visited him regularly over fifteen years, Pure Act is an intimate look at an extraordinary but little-known life. Much more than just a biography, it’s a tale of adventure, an exploration of friendship, an anthology of wisdom, and a testament to the liberating power of living an uncommon life.

Michael N. McGregor is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Portland State University. He has lectured at universities, conferences, and community events on both Robert Lax and Thomas Merton and is a member of Biographers International Organization and the International Thomas Merton Society.