Taylor, Kendall Frances 1941-
TAYLOR, Kendall Frances 1941-
PERSONAL: Born May 9, 1941, in Bronx, NY; daughter of Alexander (a writer and upholsterer) and Sophie (a homemaker; maiden name, Tannenbaum) Finne; married Craig Taylor, June 6, 1962 (divorced September, 1967); married David Russon Garner (an attorney), September 29, 1979 (died August, 1999); children: (second marriage) Sophie Alexandra. Ethnicity: "Jewish; Russian-Austrian." Education: Fairleigh Dickinson University, B.A., 1962; Vanderbilt University, M.A, 1963, M.A.T., 1964; Syracuse University, M.A., 1977, Ph.D., 1979. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Writing, reading, research, travel.
ADDRESSES: Home—P.O. Box 514, Canton, NY 13617. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: University of Maryland, College Park, professor of literature and creative writing, 1965–68; producer, writer, and host of public-affairs programming for San Francisco and Los Angeles televison stations, 1968–73; U.S. Information Agency, Washington, DC, curriculum specialist, 1977–78; State University of New York, Potsdam, gallery director and member of art department faculty, 1978–80; New York State Council on the Arts, New York, NY, field representative, 1980; Library of Congress, Washington, director of national exhibition program, 1980–84; George Washington University, Washington, member of graduate school faculty, 1980–88; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, lecturer Campus on the Mall, beginning 1984; Friends World College, Huntington, NY, vice president of planning, research, and institutional advancement, 1986–88, member of board of trustees, 1988–91; American University, Washington, DC, academic director, Washington semester program in art and architecture, 1988–94; Arts Management Associates and Artbank, Washington, DC, director, beginning 1984. Curator of numerous art exhibitions; lecturer and presenter at symposia; visiting curator at Edith C. Blum Art Institute of Bard College, 1984–86, and Central Gallery of Bucknell University, 1984–85; St. Lawrence University, visiting professor, 1985–86; Washington Center, member of advisory board.
MEMBER: Writers Guild of America, National Press Club.
AWARDS, HONORS: Syracuse University graduate teaching fellow, 1973–77; University of Florence (Italy), fine arts fellow, 1974–75; Smithsonian doctoral fellow, 1977–78; Library of Congress special achievement award, 1983; Fulbright Award to Peoples' Republic of China, 1998–99; Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant; N.A.M.I. Award, 2002; Soros Foundation grant; National Endowment for the Humanities grant.
(With Lila Weingarten) Selling Your Crafts and Art in Los Angeles, Wollstonecraft Inc. (Los Angeles, CA), 1974.
Philip Evergood: Never Separate from the Heart, Bucknell University Press (Lewisburg, PA), 1987.
(With others) Art What Thou Eat: Images of Food in American Art, Edith C. Blum Art Institute/Moyer Bell Limited (Mt. Kisco, NY), 1991.
Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A Marriage, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Contributor to books, including Gender Perspectives on Women: Essays on Women in Museums, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1994. Contributor to periodicals, including American Art Review, Artwire, Courier, Museum and Arts, Museum News, Museum Travel, and Kalamazoo Journal.
SIDELIGHTS: Historian and educator Kendall Frances Taylor is the author of Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A Marriage, a biography chronicling one of the most dramatic relationships of the twentieth century. Author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered to be one of the greatest authors of the modern age. He married Southern belle Zelda Sayre in the spring of 1920, just days after the publication of his first novel, This Side of Paradise. During the decade that followed, the Fitzgeralds became icons of the Jazz Age, Zelda as the quintessential flapper and Scott as the flamboyant, moody, alcoholic author. However, their personal life was fraught with difficulties. As Scott's fame grew, so did Zelda's dissatisfaction with life. He borrowed from her writings and suppressed her career, and by her thirties, she began to exhibit symptoms of the mental instability that would ultimately result in her institutionalization. She died on March 11, 1948, at age forty-seven, during a fire in Asheville, North Carolina's Highland Hospital of Nervous Diseases.
Critical reaction to Taylor's book was mixed, with some remarking favorably on her readable, dramatic account of the Fitzgeralds' life and others contending that her portrait is unbalanced due to a feminist agenda. While agreeing that "Taylor initiates a feminist theme in her preface," Barry Spurr of the Sydney Morning Herald opined that "this becomes less significant in the pursuit of her queries about Zelda's personal and professional failures." In Contemporary Review, Richard Whittington-Egan questioned Taylor's theory that "Zelda elected madness as her escape route from a 'control freak' husband," while New Statesman contributor Lucy Moore took issue with what she called Taylor's "anachronistic view" that Fitzgerald exploited his wife's real-life problems in his fiction. The book, Moore concluded, "is not a portrait of a marriage; it's a defence of one party." St. Louis Post-Dispatch contributor Jamie Spencer disagreed, writing that Taylor "is particularly valuable as a cultural historian" vividly portraying the excitement of the Jazz Age. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom is the first biography in which Zelda is treated as Scott's equal, but felt that Taylor's "most noteworthy contribution is her chilling documentation of Zelda's mental health and treatment by elite doctors with experimental approaches to schizophrenia in the 1930s and '40s." In a Booklist review, Donna Seaman wrote of the biography that it is "the most thorough and uncensored chronicle yet," calling the work "fluent, deeply felt, and involving." Seaman concluded by saying that it illuminates "the inherent conflict between art and life."
Taylor told CA: "I write about people, always nonfiction, and am most content in a library. I consider myself a researcher and scholar more than a writer since my work is academic. By that I mean subject-based and dependent on primary materials in archives and libraries. These might include letters, diaries, memoirs, sketch books, and previous scholarly works by other researchers. I'm a cultural historian and interested in people and their creative contribution to particular eras. I enjoy the research stage so much, often I must force myself to stop, and generally have too much information by the time I begin writing. I've been influenced by James Mellow, whom I consider a great biographer, and others like him whose writing reflects their subjects' humanity and renders them alive.
"People got me interested in writing. I'm a natural biographer. From childhood, I read my way through the biography and autobiography section of our town library, fascinated by lives of the famous and ordinary. After college, I became a reporter and primarily wrote about people. Engaging them to talk about their lives, I found the stories shared by a Turkish shoemaker or British prime minister equally compelling, and have carved out a career writing about them and others. It is very fulfilling and I am grateful for the profession."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A Marriage, p. 1971.
Contemporary Review, February, 2003, Richard Whittington-Egan, review of Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, p. 118.
Globe and Mail, (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) September 1, 2001, Heather Mallick, review of Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, p. D9.
Library Journal, September 1, 2001, Scott Hightower, review of Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, p. 180.
New Statesman, September 23, 2002, Lucy Moore, review of Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, July 16, 2001, review of Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, p. 174.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 2, 2001, Jamie Spencer, review of Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom.
Washington Post Book World, August 26, 2001, Jonathan Yardley, review of Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, p. T2.
HarperCollins Publishers Australia Web site, http://www.harpercollins.com.au/ (August 20, 2005), interview with Taylor.