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Pausing For a Backward Glance: A work of historical fiction [Paperback] Reviewed By Dr. Wesley Britton of Bookpleasures.com
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Dr. Wesley Britton

Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE

 
By Dr. Wesley Britton
Published on July 8, 2011
 


Author: Jack Salem
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN-10: 1456322710
ISBN-13: 978-1456322717


 

Click Here To Purchase Pausing For a Backward Glance: A work of historical fiction

Author: Jack Salem

Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN-10: 1456322710
ISBN-13: 978-1456322717
 

 
 Pausing For a Backward Glance isn’t a plot-driven novel in the traditional sense of the term, but rather a literary scaffold which allows author Jack Salem to present a panorama of perspectives on the role of artists and art in the ethical and political spheres of both 19th century France and Hollywood during the 1950s.       
 
The book opens with a brief foreshadowing of hearings to come before the House Un-American Committee that dominates the final third of the book.  But after this introduction, the stage is Paris where screenwriter Sally Apple has been sent to ostensibly craft a screenplay on the life of a Colonel Picquart, a man who had a crisis of conscience during the scandalous Dreyfus Affair.     But, to the distress of the producer who commissioned the script, Sally  immerses herself in the biographies of French writers, composers, and artists who reflect from the grave on what the Dreyfus Affair meant to them—Debussy, Grieg, Rodin, Monet, Zola among others. Sally channels all these voices who, to one degree or another, tell her in long monologues about their anti-Semitism and how this did or did not affect their views on the wrongly convicted traitor to the French Army. For some, French honor meant more than any injustice to one Jew; for others, they wonder how their art should be judged when their views on Jews become known—do esthetics trump unsavory prejudices of the artist? What is the meaning of honor, and can one respect someone who despises your race but still does the right thing? What if that someone is a colleague and friend?  Sally becomes obsessed with exploring these issues and the relationships between these figures to the point she is fired from the film project and nearly loses her marriage to her husband, a film director out of work and needing to return to Hollywood.
         
When the couple does return to the states in 1950, they are immediately embroiled in hearings by the House Un-American Activities Committee looking to find Communist influences in the movie industry. Now, the monologues are framed as testimony by Sally, her husband, and others who try to clarify the idealism of liberals who, in particular, want improved conditions for African-Americans as juxtaposed against those with the same goals but with a decidedly Red bent. Testifiers describe being members of the Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, trips to Writers Conferences in Moscow,  and how fanaticism and the horrors of war drove them into a deeper awareness of what both Fascism and Soviet totalitarianism were. At the same time, Congressman on the panel want to know who in Hollywood was Communist, what defines a Communist, and what films were Red propaganda. Throughout the hearings, the simplicity of such questions drowns in the deeper contexts of the issues, the changing ethos of those involved, and the nuances of complex philosophies.  
 
The thread that links all these layers is the character of Sally Apple. In Paris, she is a sponge eagerly absorbing the conflicting views of the French intellectuals. In Hollywood, she is at first a worried responder to the Congressional inquisition before becoming an advocate of her own positions and finding her own creative voice. The book is her journey, one that includes an advanced education with a unique university of professors. And so too the reader, especially readers willing to digest a book slowly and do some pausing of their own along the way.
           
 
Click Here To Purchase Pausing For a Backward Glance: A work of historical fiction

Dr. Wes Britton's audio interview with Jack Salem for online radio’s “Dave White Presents” is available for listening or download HERE: