The author of the critically acclaimed biography of the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, returns to this subject to further investigate Zelda's affair with the French aviator Edouard Jozan and its influence on the creation of The Great Gatsby.
Kendall Taylor’s The Gatsby Affair is, basically, an updated version of her 2001 biography of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald’s roller-coaster marriage, Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom. Even for readers of the latter book, however, there exists in Taylor’s latest enough that is new to make taking a look worthwhile. To begin with, Taylor has unearthed more details about Edouard Jozan, the French naval aviator who may or may not have had a sexual relationship with Zelda while Scott worked on The Great Gatsby ... The most heart-rending portions of the book deal with Zelda’s purported schizophrenia, a disease Taylor is adamant she did not have ... The Gatsby Affair, while only weakly explaining how Zelda’s fling with Jozan 'shaped an American classic,' certainly shows readers once more how the kind of emotional upheaval that inspires great art can also crush the strongest spirits. The fact Scott and Zelda remained bound together is the most amazing part of this tale.
In The Gatsby Affair, Taylor idealizes Zelda and carries forward the tradition (perfected by Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast) of diminishing Scott by emasculating him ... Most of these tidbits have been reshuffled time and again in earlier biographies. The new angle Taylor purports to offer is access to [Zelda's rumored lover Edouard] Jozan’s letters and recollections by his daughter Martine ... Regrettably, what Taylor mostly serves up is a pile of unsifted information about Jozan’s ancestry, schooling and military training. Descriptions here are so dense with trivia they make reading an act of the will ... Perhaps it’s a sign of desperation that Taylor resorts to reading Zelda’s and Jozan’s astrological signs ... The Gatsby Affair is one of those wobbly biographies where a reader constantly flips to the 'Notes' section, only to be frustrated by the lack of sources tethering pronouncements like: 'Edouard Jozan was the type of man about whom Zelda always had fantasized.'
This historical study chronicles the couple’s marriage from both perspectives, but the author presents the past with an emphasis on Zelda’s interpretation of their experiences. This shifting viewpoint allows the reader to develop a greater understanding of her personal turmoil and provides her the spotlight she desperately sought throughout her life ... Meticulously researched, the author’s attention to detail creates an immersion into the Jazz Age and highlights previously unknown events that offer explanations for both Fitzgerald and Zelda’s recklessness and approach to life ... Taylor examines the couple’s dependence on each other through an unfiltered lens that reveals the life events that shaped their existence and, ultimately, their demise. The author’s skill at discovering new information on the uninhibited couple’s past encounters connects the previously missing pieces and establishes a multi-dimensional picture of these passionate individuals.