The Name of Rose by Umberto Eco
For all those who read The Name of the Rose when it was new and adored it beyond measure, I now see that we were eavesdroppers. The book was written for Hilary. The rest of us created the demand that kept it on bookshelves so she, just she, could find it. What a moving essay and a celebration of the marvel of books!
Not to diminish the others, but this is by far the best piece on this Substack since it started. I am awed.
Not only because I loved the book myself, not only because I also have a fascination with the world of medieval Christianity, and not only because I consider the pursuit of wisdom the most worthwhile goal of my life.
I am in awe seeing this perfect weight of the writing, the perfect balance of full and tight.
Gorgeous and haunting. Uncomfortably familiar. What luscious details! The pacing and scene-setting in this piece is just exquisite.
Wow, what a gorgeously written and interesting story. I am a life-long practicing Catholic and we recently moved to a place where there are a surprising number of religious groups that claim to be Catholic, but have simultaneously rejected certain fundamental aspects of the faith in order to adhere to an incredibly rigid, stiff, "medieval" interpretation of it, attaching a legalistic obligation of dogma to things that were only ever meant to be optional expressions of love and devotion. Very much like what you described. It is truly cult-like and the people who have made their way out of those communities and back to the Church itself would probably tell stories very similar to yours. It is so interesting how there is a touting of "this is the truth" and yet, when you are a part of those communities you can feel the tangible lack of love. It's such a grace that you were able to extract yourself from it.
Hilary's writing is beautifully immersive. What a gift to have come across this book at just the right time.
Woah! What a great story. I love Eco, and The Name of the Rose is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It spoke to me in ways no other book had. But it seems like it spoke to Hilary even more.
This kind of essay is a testament to the importance of BTMU’s mission, as it clearly, poignantly, and vulnerably shows how books can change and shape a life. Thank you for featuring this story, Mikey.
And Hilary, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for writing it.
I've been distracted and pulled away from my regular reading on Substack, and I've missed this publication.
This piece was beautiful, evocative, and incredibly sad. It's so sad to think of your father dying in that community after being forced to conform. I can think of many people I love in repressive religious communities who will also probably die there.
And regarding The Name of the Rose - it's been on my book shelf for years, sadly unread. This post might change that.
Wow Hillary. What beautiful writing and what unflinching truth. Thank you for sharing.
I often wonder what makes some people able to resist conformity while others cannot. I love the way you shared Brother William as your own influence.
-- Beautiful, bright, brilliant writing. Xo.
Great storytelling and I enjoyed how Hilary's life story intertwined with ideas from Eco's book.
Wonderful to read this superbly written personal reflection. I haven’t read the book yet but Eco is a favourite author so it’s on my list.
Yes, literature as salvific! True Catholic sensibility. Thank you, Hilary, and onward blessing.
Such a beautiful story about a beautiful book. I love what you say about truth.
What a great essay! And yes, the book is also a masterpiece, but from now on I will see it in a different light