Sunday, April 14, 2013


My son wrote from military basic training to ask if I could send him "The Godfather" in bits and pieces. The trainees are not allowed to have books, so perhaps I could sneak in something piecemeal.

I set about trying to implement this small conspiracy and then realized that the task would be too enormous. "The Godfather" is nearly 400 pages long with chapters that tended to be likewise long ... long and thus weighty in a first-class mail envelope. More than that, very fat envelopes are obvious and risked discovery by the powers that be. If you're going to be sneaky, it pays not to be too obviously sneaky.

No books, no cell phones, no computers, phone calls home granted as an occasional privilege ... these are some of the rules of my son's new environment. What he has taken for granted in the past -- what was ho-hum and possibly boring -- can no longer be taken for granted ... and as a result, acquires a new luster and importance.

It's a good lesson, I think -- a life that yanks your chain a reminds you to be a little more attentive. My son was never what I would call a reading fool, but now ... now reading would be a delight, or at least a change from hum-drum potatoes.

I did not want to let my son's request go unanswered, so I began thinking of what reading material I could send on the QT. At first I thought of digging out one or two short-short stories, but then I got hung up remembering "Turnabout,"  one of William Faulkner's very few tales that was not infused with stylistic murk ... just a straightforward story packed with World War II derring-do. It may be too murky for my son, but as action-adventure goes, I had always thought it was pretty good. So I risked it -- twenty pages stuffed into an envelope.

I have to admit to thinking that if the military life teaches my son a love of -- or even interest in -- reading, it will have done him a good service. That would be quite a turnabout from high school.

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