The romance between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre has been celebrated as one of the greatest of the 20th century. From the beginning, their relationship was a tumultuous one, in which the couple’s excesses were as widely known as their passion for each other. Despite their love, both Scott and Zelda engaged in flirtations that threatened to tear the couple apart. But none had a more profound impact on the two—and on Scott’s writing—as the liaison between Zelda and a French aviator, Edouard Jozan. Though other biographies have written of Jozan as one of Scott’s romantic rivals, accounts of the pilot’s effect on the couple have been superficial at best.
In The Gatsby Affair: Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal That Shaped an American Classic, Kendall Taylor examines the dalliance between the southern belle and the French pilot from a fresh perspective. Drawing on conversations and correspondence with Jozan’s daughter, as well as materials from the Jozan family archives, Taylor sheds new light on this romantic triangle. More than just a casual fling, Zelda’s tryst with Edouard affected Scott as much as it did his wife—and ultimately influenced the author’s most famous creation, Jay Gatsby. Were it not for Zelda’s affair with the pilot, Scott’s novel might be less about betrayal and more about lost illusions.
Exploring the private motives of these public figures, Taylor offers new explanations for their behavior. In addition to the love triangle that included Jozan, Taylor also delves into an earlier event in Zelda’s life—a sexual assault she suffered as a teenager—one that affected her future relationships. Both a literary study and a probing look at an iconic couple’s psychological makeup, The Gatsby Affair offers readers a bold interpretation of how one of America’s greatest novels was influenced.
It was a picturesque drive from Frejus to Le Massif de Esterel, a mountainous range of porphyry cliffs two thousand feet above sea level that jutted down ravines to secluded coves. Edouard and Zelda drove to its highest point,Mount Vinaigre, and walked through heather and broom to a watchtower offering an unobstructed view of Monte Carlo. Zelda’s espadrilles, purchased only weeks before, now were shredded from much roving off the paths. Built for horse and wagon, the road wove through curtains of heliotrope, banks of rosemary, and cascades of scarlet geraniums. Flowers were harvested yearround, roses boiled, jasmine crushed, and orange blossoms macerated to create perfumed oils for which Provence was famous.
The hills were dotted with village perches encircled by ramparts, which earlier had offered protection from Saracen invaders. Proud of his heritage, Edouard was familiar with them all: St. Andre with its seventeenth-century château; La Trinite-Victor, where the Roman road wound down from Laghet; and above St. Andre at a thousand feet, beautiful Falicon with its silver-gray olive trees leaning toward the sea. Birdsong filled the air, along with the clang of a blacksmith’s hammer and tolling of distant church bells. “Long roads wound implacably up and over into pine fragrant depths,” Zelda recalled, “and gardens dropped into the sea. The baritone of tired medieval bells proclaimed disinterestedly a holiday from time to time. Lavender bloomed silently over the rocks. It was hard to see the vibrancy of the sun.”
They wandered through alleys as narrow as trenches, dipping under vaulted passageways, where windows and doors popped up in unexpected places.
Some villages celebrated weekly festivals, Saint John’s observed on June 24, the longest day of the year and the start of summer. To re-create rites of ancient sun worshippers, townsfolk decorated their houses with plants thought to possess magical powers and danced around bonfires to guarantee a year of happiness. Down cobblestoned steps lined with flowerpots, they followed a lane exiting at the base of a church tower and entered a sunbaked square to find the smallest bistro imaginable. Under a chestnut tree, the proprietor’s dog dozed in the shade, and bourride was served, only neither was hungry, filled with exhilaration of being together. Edouard recalled Zelda’s loveliness during those days, “a shining beauty, a creature who overflowed with activity, radiant with desire to take from life every chance her charm, youth and intelligence provided so abundantly.”
From Callian to St. Paul de Vence, cresting a hill above Nice, the Renault wound through cypress groves and fields of rosemary. By July, violets already had passed, along with hyacinths and jonquils, but orange blossoms and mimosa were everywhere. It was only a short distance from there to the sea, where smells of cheese and wine mingled with salted fish. Along the
quay, fishermen patched and painted their boats, while women sat on low stools repairing nets. Waterside cafes advertised the daily catch: langoustes, huitres, and moules coquillages—lobster, oysters, and mussels. At twilight the shoreline came alive with pianola playing that summer’s American hit about a nonexistent yellow fruit: “There’s a fruit store on our street. It’s run by a
Greek. And he keeps good things to eat, but you should hear him speak. When you ask him anything, he never says ‘no.’ He just ‘yes’es’ you to death, and as he takes your dough he tells you’ Yes, we have no bananas, we have no bananas today! We have string beans and onions and cabbages and scallions, and all kinds of fruit, and an old fashioned tomato, a Long Island potato, but yes, we have no bananas, we have no bananas today!” Silly words, but the
French thought it wildly amusing.
When the Murphys saw Edouard and Zelda by the seaside, they weren’t surprised, since they felt everyone knew of the affair, except Scott.
The Gatsby Affair: Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal that Shaped an American Classic by Dr. Kendall Taylor. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018, 253 pp.
Reviewed by Dr. Rickie-Ann Legleitner, assistant professor of English and Director of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in The F. Scott Fitzgerald Review; The Pennsylvania State University Press, Vol. 16, 2018, pp. 252-257.
"In Kendall Taylor's The Gatsby Affair, we find a biography that more carefully explores the life of Edouard Jozan, the French pilot who infamously had an “affair” of some sort with Zelda Fitzgerald in the summer of 1924 as her husband raced to complete The Great Gatsby, and who inspired numerous creative works from both Fitzgeralds while considerably impacting their marriage. Deborah Pike's The Subversive Art of Zelda Fitzgerald provides a serious treatment of Zelda's extensive writing and visual art, asserting her role as a legitimate modernist artist.
Taylor's biography provides a detailed account of the lives of both Fitzgeralds and of Jozan, opening with a timeline that runs from 1896 to 2006, showing the progression of each individual's life—a helpful visual that traces when their lives met, overlapped, and diverged. Each dense chapter offers critical insights into the historical moment as well as compelling details about the lives of individuals who existed on the periphery of the famous duo, such as Jozan's friends Rene Silvy and Bobbe Croirer. Although every Fitzgerald biography offers its own interpretation of the minutiae of the Fitzgeralds' lives and complicated relationship, Taylor interviewed and carefully researched the family and friends of the Fitzgeralds and of Jozan, creating a more complete picture of the “affair” and its aftermath. As Taylor points out, “Although Edouard has always interested Fitzgerald followers, there has been little agreement about his impact on their lives, and in an otherwise well researched case history, the pilot has remained a mystery” (xi). This book effectively fills that gap.
Of course, in any discussion of the summer of 1924, one must put quotation marks around the word “affair” for the simple reason that available evidence neither confirms nor denies an actual physical relationship between the aviator and the 23-year-old wife who was bored and restless while her husband wrote. Were Zelda and Jozan lovers or was their five-week Riviera encounter a flirtation that trespassed into emotional adultery? Biographers typically take a stand at one extreme or the other and read texts such as The Great Gatsby and Save Me the Waltz for corroboration. To a certain extent Taylor sidesteps the ambiguity of the evidence and simply asserts that the summer romance was indeed a “petite aventure, a brief affair with a willing partner” that left Scott “the proverbial mari trompé, or cuckolded husband” (71). Readers expecting a case to be made and a position staked against claims in previous Fitzgerald biographies may be thrown for a bit of a loop; for a measured assessment of clues and presumed proof (or the lack of it), one must turn to Scott Donaldson's chapter “Summer of '24: Zelda's Affair” (172–86) in his The Impossible Craft: Literary Biography (2015).
Refreshingly, Taylor does not come across as biased toward either of the Fitzgeralds, but instead offers an assessment that is critical and validating of both individuals' flaws, talents, aspirations, and misadventures. Following the contemporary trend, Taylor gives careful attention to Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald's upbringing in Alabama as well as to her time in various mental institutions at the end of her life, showing how her experiences run parallel to her husband's own pitiable downfall. She is not portrayed as secondary to her husband, and Jozan is also given substantial attention beyond his role in the couple's marital woes.
Indeed, the major contribution of this book is its robust understanding of Jozan, including insights into his upbringing, disposition, romantic motivations, and career and marital aspirations. For this background, Taylor is deeply indebted to Jozan's daughter, Martine Jozan Work, who contacted the author shortly after the publication of her 2003 biography of Zelda, Sometimes Madness is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A Marriage, offering insights about her father, who died in 1981. Additionally, Taylor provides a clear discernment of the cultural context, a large contributor to the drama that ensued: “It was accepted that a young officer, unprepared to wed, would take a mistress. Wives held particular appeal, rivaling single women, by offering pleasure without responsibility” (71). Taylor provides a reasonable and insightful assessment of what Jozan's intentions were in his brief pursuit of Zelda, why the relationship inevitably had to end, and why the Fitzgeralds were never able to recover.
For Fitzgerald, Taylor sees this event as opening old wounds, as “He had not forgotten Zelda's reluctance to marry and her involvement with the aviator replicated Ginevra King's selection of a naval pilot over him” (79). Taylor astutely assesses the motivations and reactions of the Fitzgeralds, substantially building on her previous Fitzgerald scholarship in Sometimes Madness is Wisdom. She also provides closure to the narrative by investigating the suspicious circumstances surrounding Zelda's tragic death, and by exploring the misfortunes and deaths of the Fitzgeralds' family and friends. She recounts the much later passing of Jozan, a life that after Nancy Milford publicly identified him as Zelda's elusive French aviator in Zelda: A Biography (1970) was continually overshadowed by his brief involvement with the Fitzgeralds: “Instead of being celebrated for his own impressive accomplishments, Edouard and his fame became linked to the Fitzgeralds in the literary cosmos” (205).
The one weakness in The Gatsby Affair is its secondary focus on the supposed sexual assault of Zelda Sayre during her teens in Montgomery, Alabama; while other critics have acknowledged this possible attack, Taylor goes further to suggest that this trauma resurfaced after Edouard's rejection, thereby causing her mental breakdown: “Trauma can generate psychoses, sometimes the brain's way of coping, and in this instance calamitous forces were released, a Greek tragedy—French style—triggering profound depression that culminated in Zelda's first suicide attempt” (xiii). She provides support for these claims by offering a close reading of Zelda's often autobiographical writing and by identifying similar events in the lives of her adolescent friends John Sellers and Peyton Mathis (the possible assailants).
But it is difficult to prove any causal chain, especially one tied to a precipitous mental break. Taylor goes on to examine the repeated misdiagnoses and mistreatment that Zelda faced while in various mental institutions: “Asylums dismantle people, rarely reassemble them, and Zelda's internment only worsened preexisting conditions, leaving deep psychic scars” (137). This investigation is an honest assessment of the shortcomings of the mental health system at this time as well as the damage it did to Zelda's life and art. However, it seems contradictory to assert the cause for a mental collapse and then to critique a system that offers rushed, generalized, and improper diagnoses.
Overall, this biography is well worth reading for any seasoned Fitzgerald scholar or new enthusiast. It is carefully researched, and it delivers original considerations of the role Jozan played in the lives and art of both Fitzgeralds, while also acknowledging how his brief encounter with the couple would come to overshadow his many achievements. It establishes the affair as a pivotal moment that would markedly influence the lives and art of both Fitzgeralds, supplying new insight into a complex and often misunderstood relationship. As Pike claims, “Distinguishing fact from fiction is no easy task” (15), and Taylor provides a well-crafted biographical narrative."
"Who is Edouard Jozan? The intriguing mystery man in the saga of Scott and Zelda has long eluded literary sleuths. In a stunning feat of research, Kendall Taylor brings the French aviator out of the shadows to reveal how he influenced the writing of a classic novel and left his mark on the marriage of an iconic couple. This is an important, richly detailed biography that will deepen our understanding of American literature." —Marion Meade, author of Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?
"Kendall Taylor rips the lid off one of the world’s great literary mysteries—the love triangle between Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and French aviator Edouard Jozan. Brimming with strong research and enchanted writing, Taylor’s engaging account of the love affair and its consequences is sure to stir fans eager to dig into this absorbing chapter in the lives of Scott and Zelda."—Bob Batchelor, author of Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel and Gatsby: The Cultural History of the Great American Novel
"This new telling of Zelda’s affair with French pilot Edouard Jozan is powerfully rendered, thanks to Kendall Taylor’s laudable research. By interweaving bits from Scott and Zelda’s novels, Taylor shows how the French pilot triggered ever deepening fractures in the Fitzgerald marriage, and brings a heart-wrenching light to their lives and their work."—Sally Ryder Brady, author of A Box of Darkness: The Story of a Marriage
"With admirable scholarship, Kendall Taylor takes the reader on a journey into the complex heart of the Jazz Era. Probing the volatile Fitzgerald marriage, she shows the destructive forces unleashed by infidelity, and portrays Zelda as a suppressed creator in her own right. An absorbing study of one of the most fascinating couples of the twentieth century."—Mary McAuliffe, author of When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends)
Irresistibly charming, recklessly brilliant, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald epitomized everything that was beautiful and damned about the Jazz Age. But behind the legend, there was a highly complex and competitive marriage–a union not of opposites but almost of twins who both inspired and tormented each other, and who were ultimately destroyed by their shared fantasies. Now in this frank, stylish, superbly written new book, Kendall Taylor tells the story of the Fitzgerald marriage as it has never been told before.
Following the success of Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, Scott and Zelda took New York by storm. Scott was recognized as the greatest American author of the twenties and everyone was fascinated with Zelda, his ravishing young wife, known as the model for all his flapper heroines. Ultimately it all fell apart, and Kendall Taylor tells us why. Drawing on previously suppressed material, including crucial medical records, Taylor sheds fresh light on Zelda’s depths and mysteries–her rich but largely unrealized artistic talents, her own ambitions that were unfulfilled because she was Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald, her passionate love affairs. Zelda’s contribution to Scott’s fiction, which was based on her diaries, her letters, and her life, was her only great achievement–and for that she may have paid the terrible price of her own sanity.
In Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, Kendall Taylor has created the definitive Fitzgerald biography. Written with sympathy, original insight, and dazzling style–and featuring memorable appearances from Edmund Wilson, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway, among others–this is a stunning portrait of a marriage, an age, and a fabulous but tragic woman.
"A library of books has been published about the legendary Fitzgeralds whose lives were filled with epic drama and tragedy. But Kendall Taylor proves that the best account of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald--smart, beautiful, and ambitious--was still waiting to be written. No other portrait is as richly detailed, as psychologically nuanced, as powerful and disturbing. Moving beyond the 'last of the flappers' cliches, Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom threw me into Zelda's world, where I could not help marveling, gasping, and shuddering. This is a heartrending biography that had me glued to the pages."
—Marion Meade, author of Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?
"Drawing on every source available to her for this unflinching portrait of the Fitzgerald marriage, Kendall Taylor gives us a disturbing story that bears retelling."
—Frances Kiernan, author of Seeing Mary Plain: A Life of Mary McCarthy
“A wise, compassionate and distinctively different book about the Fitzgeralds that paints an unforgettable portrait of an era.”
“A remarkably wise, astonishingly sweeping achievement…”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“ Fluent, deeply felt and involving, pushing beyond the particular of one mutually destructive marriage to illuminate the inherent conflict between art and life.”
“ Well-written, carefully researched…. scholarly and readable, ‘drawing on previously suppressed material, including crucial medical records,’ and bringing an intense engagement and empathy to Zelda….”
“A remarkably wise, astonishingly sweeping achievement…” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“ Taylor presents the most through and uncensored chronicle yet of the tragic symbiosis between Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. Fluent, deeply felt and involving, pushing beyond the particular of one mutually destructive marriage to illuminate the inherent conflict between art and life. ”
Taylor, a Fulbright scholar, cultural historian and professor, weighs in with a well-written, comprehensive book that explores the folie a deux that bound the Fitzgeralds together… .”
“Kendall Taylor’s portrait of the folie a deux that was Scott Fitzgerald’s marriage to Zelda Sayre is insightful and entertainingly wretched. Taylor, a U.S. historian, argues convincingly that Zelda, a woman of talent and originality, struggled to make something of herself independently of her famous husband, and was prevented, not just by her era, but by his angry interference.”
—The Globe and Mail
“Dr Taylor demonstrates a particularly adept sensitivity toward Zelda’s inner and outer worlds ... and almost magically manages to render it through Zelda’s eyes. This is a great bio---humorous, honest, illuminating and sad.”
“Kendall Taylor’s new biography of the Fitzgeralds, Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, is the first to provide adequate groundwork for a thorough account of literary custody… examining sources new and old to find out just where within the Fitzgerald home plagiarism began, and at what madhouse it ended… .“
Whenever an artist is more appreciated by fellow artist than by the critics or general public, it is often a signal that his or her work embodies special qualities. This is certainly the case with Phillip Evergood. Highly respected, indeed revered by other artists of his generation, Evergood was always viewed as an especially talented artist by his contemporaries, but has nonetheless remained on the periphery of recognition and acclaim. The intent of this book is to remedy this lack of critical attention. Kendall Taylor's well-documented and thorough study encourages readers and viewers alike to look again at the work of this highly individual and creative artist.
Generally out of the mainstream of American art, and usually at odds with the arts establishment, Phillip Evergood was never able to gain total acceptance from it. In part, this neglect stems from the fact that his paintings are sometimes difficult to interpret, frequently tropical in nature, and idiosyncratic in approach and design. But the undervaluation of his art is also the result of Evergood's unwavering decision to follow his own path, ignoring prevailing styles of his time. An artistic maveric from his student days at London's Slade School of Art, he was just reaching a maturity of expression in the early fifties when the New York School burst on the scene, eclipsing artists like Evergood who preferred the realistic mode and were committed to using their art for social commentary.
This study is divided into two parts. The biographical section, which includes many of the artist's own comments excerpted form letters, poems, essays, notes, and interviews, traces Evergood's life form his birth in New York City, through his schooling in England, to his resettlement in the Untied States during the 1930's. Throughout the book, his complex relationship with his wife, Julia, is carefully described form the time of their first meeting in Paris during the 1920's until the artist's 1973 death in a fire. The second part of the book places Evergood within the context of the humanist tradition; discusses the humanist intention in his work; analyzes his style, method, color, and use of symbols; and reevaluates his position in twenth-century American art.
" Dr. Taylor's blending of biography and formal analysis works well here, for it shows the complex relationship between Evergood's paintings and the difficult personality that produced them. This is biography at its best: a thorough recounting of the artist's life and his accomplishments seen in a personal and accurate perspective."
" The best book to come out on an American artist this year..."
"While he lived, Evergood never received the serious critical attention he deserved. Now that has been supplied in all its dimensions in this first rate book, the culmination of a ten year project. The abundance of documentary illustrations and Taylor's thorough examination of the artist's personality, his background, and his work make this a most absorbing book."
—American Artist Magazine