A personal crisis on the road brings the author to terms with the fact that she “was somebody’s Lolita.”
Barzman’s 2003 memoir, The Red and the Blacklist , dealt with her exodus from Hollywood with her blacklisted screenwriter husband Ben at the height of McCarthyism. This follow-up is based on a 1973 trip to Cremona, Italy, from her home in France, during which she and her friend Hope are joined by first-cousin Henry Myers, a celebrated author, lyricist and screenwriter by then infirm and in his 80s. The ostensible purpose is to restore her beloved cousin’s flagging creative drive by investigating the shadowy career of violin-making genius Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu (1698–1744), who could be the basis for the next Myers novel. Their encounter is emotionally rocky, however, and Cremona is beset by political unrest as a Fascist element employs threats and violence. Barzman still manages to become enthralled not only by the town’s historic violin makers (including the Amati family and Stradivari himself), but the possibility that Jews, once hounded from Cremona, may have been instrumenta, so to speak, in establishing the manufacture of violins. An attraction/distraction appears in the form of Philip, a young American apprentice in a Cremona workshop; but as she moves inevitably toward a consummation with the much younger man, the author is beset by flashbacks of self-realization. She has always regarded Myers, some 27 years her senior, as “the love of her life”—a charming, attentive and indulgent frequent companion in her Hollywood youth. In Cremona, however, her recall takes on a new clarity, illuminating his fondling of her when a pre-teen and their intermittent sexual encounters, extending over a decade, which she welcomed and even instigated.
An artful view of the stark reality that molestation may not always invite reprisal.