Umberto Eco’s compelling first novel, “The Name of the Rose,” is a gripping mystery involving unusual deaths in 1327 at a remote Benedictine monastery in Italy. Written in 1980, it was later (1986) made into a powerful movie starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater and even more recently into a BBC miniseries.
The work is really about a library, the one at the monastery where after centuries monks still engaged in drafting elaborate copies of sacred texts (moveable type not yet invented for more than another century). Satan is blamed for the deadly mayhem going on at the monastery, but it turns out it was just some unhappy monk in authority who went to all that trouble to keep his big secret — that he had sealed off from any public access thousands of books he deemed sinful because of their promotion, in one form or another, of humor and laughter.
Alas, the denial to humanity of access to learning, to science, to truth, to, in summary, books, is as old as civilization itself because, in one form or another, so is evil. Trump isn’t the only despot to decry the media, the access to truth, facts and knowledge, as “the enemy of the people.” Hopefully his insistence that he is the only arbiter of truth, in a manner similar to what other bloody tyrants have done throughout history, is only a temporary aberration on the American body politic, but there is no way to know for sure. The lust for ignorance and abject obedience to authority is a strong force among people who fear the real world.
So much of all of this has to do with books. There is evidence to show that the newly emerging generation is beginning to turn its back on solely electronic forms of reading, longing for the tattered, corners-bent, note-scrawled forms of real books, solid books, books to fit into coat pockets where they can be walked beyond the gaze of prying eyes, clear off the grid, if need be, to refresh and enlighten the souls of knowledge-hungry persons of all ages and stripes.
Yes, the City of Falls Church must take great pride in being a sanctuary for books and all the wonderful things associated with them.
This is what we reiterate our call for the City Council to give a final vote of confirmation to move ahead at last with the long-overdue renovation and expansion of its beloved Mary Riley Styles Public Library.
The Council voted a narrow 4-3 preliminary OK to the new guaranteed price terms for the job, despite the 2-to-1 overwhelming vote in favor by a referendum of the people in 2016. We hope the vote will be more emphatic this coming Monday, strong enough to show the world the City is not phased by slight fears of adversity such that its biggest callings, like its sanctuary role for knowledge, science, and books, including funny ones, are firmly in command here.