Moveable Forts and Magazines
Dick Rose, author
Moveable Forts and Magazines explores the sibling themes of conscience and responsibility. The thoughts and feelings of two men -- one young, innocent and practical; the other, older, experienced, and idealistic -- are examined. In the frame of the present, the main story deals with Senior Chief Journalist Dan Levin, his relationship with the Navy, his doubts about his leadership abilities, and the handling of a public relations crisis over the apparent desertion of the admiral’s son. Dan is an idealistic and conscientious career Navyman trying to adjust to an environment that is frequently hostile and always alien to him. He is concerned about his obligations to the Navy, to his family, to his friend (the admiral’s son), and to his conscience. Interwoven with Dan’s scenes are those showing Lieutenant (junior grade) Fred Hetherington, Annapolis graduate, attack helicopter pilot, and product of generations of in-breeding within the Navy’s aristocracy. He, too, is attempting to reconcile his conscience with his duty. He has refused to return to his unit in Vietnam and has taken sanctuary with a peace activist group. There, he begins to question the correctness of his action, while he seeks someone who will understand him and his action. Connecting the two men are past conversations and letters, alluded to and shown in flashback, in which they have discussed the meaning of obligation and the apparent irrationality and lack of purpose of the American involvement in Vietnam. Death is present as the reader meets, in flashback, Lieutenant Pete Rogers, who, the reader knows from present action, will be killed in combat. Facing death daily, Pete is unaware of its certainty for him in the immediate future. Both Pete’s life and his death influence the actions of Fred Hetherington. The two parallel lines develop as Fred matures and makes certain basic discoveries about himself, his sense of obligation and duty, and his need for understanding. Fred’s increasing awareness has its counterpoint in Dan Levin’s dilemma as he ponders his responsibility for Fred’s actions, while attempting to avoid making any decision. Natalie Levin’s timely intervention brings all of the points together, focusing the problems and forcing the decisions. At the novel’s end, the two men have switched positions, and each has reacted in his own personal way -- Fred Hetherington gains awareness, Dan Levin suppressing reality. The story purposely has no moral, although the reader is indirectly invited to extract his own theme as he chooses the character -- Dan Levin, Natalie Levin, Fred Hetherington, the Admiral, Pete Rogers, or one of the observer participants -- with whom he wishes to identify.