STEPHEN THE SLASHER

DART BOARD

He was a quiet boy. He never played in the street with the other children, and instead stayed inside the musty yellow house with his mother. He kept to himself. He didn't give the neighbors any trouble.

Little did anyone suspect that Stephen L. Womack would be accused of being a slasher. And not just any slasher. Harvard police say Womack is the Widener slasher they have been pursuing for four years.

Slasher. The word conjures up images of brutal murders committed in cold blood. A modern day "Jack the Ripper" roves the stacks of Widener, razor in hand, searching for his next victim.

He finds his target deep within the stacks, and approaches stealthily. He places his hand on the spine of his prey and pulls out his knife. The blade flashes under the dim light as the victim screams.

Oh wait--there is no scream. You see, Womack's victims weren't people, but books.

Womack was a quiet former Harvard library employee. He sounds a lot like a frustrated milquetoast, Harvard's answer to the "crazed post office worker": peaceful and content on the outside, raging and disturbed within.

Slashing as a crime is so glamorous, so easily sensationalized. Perhaps the timid Womack, if he is indeed guilty of what he has been accused, wanted to find an easier way to obtain the exciting title of "slasher." At least a way that wouldn't involve killing people.

Rare and beautiful books have been destroyed; what's done is done. Why should we be grim? Let's look on the bright side. Slashing up rare books, a treasure trove of knowledge, is a grave crime. But it's not as bad as slashing up people.