On September 24, 2015, the Collegeville Institute and the libraries at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University invited Michael N. McGregor to speak about his new book, Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax. McGregor, who has led summer writing workshops at the Collegeville Institute for the past four years, told the audience that he wanted to write about Lax because the poet is not very well-known. If people are familiar with him, it is usually as the best friend of Thomas Merton, but McGregor wanted to illuminate Lax’s story, “because it is beautiful and strange in its own way.”
During the event, McGregor revealed that it took 14 years to write Pure Act, and his research included personal interviews with the poet himself, as well as spending hours sifting through Lax’s papers and journals. The result is a book that gives readers an in-depth understanding of Lax’s questing nature and his gentle spirt. When someone in the audience asked why others were so generous to Lax—giving him clothes, money, and even a house—McGregor likened Lax to a fawn. He had such a beautiful fragility and innocence that others wanted to protect that and help Lax to live his uncommon life.