Above is the last picture taken of James Gould Cozzens, in the Florida
condo where he lived with his wife from 1973 until his death in 1978.
As readers of Paul Zahl's posts on this site (in The Zahl File) will know, Cozzens had been a major literary celebrity in the 1950s and a
best-selling author, but some unpleasant (and inaccurate) reports of
his personal prejudices along with shifting tastes in literature left
him all but forgotten at the end. He's probably best known today as
the author of By Love Possessed, which was made into a Hollywood film.
Below is a photograph of the condo as it stands today, taken a few days
ago — the date-stamp is wrong:
[Photo © 2010 Don Whalen]
It's at Beacon 21, Rio (Jensen Beach), Florida. When Cozzens moved there
permanently from New England, he sold his large library and basically
stopped writing, except in his diary. He puttered in a small garden
attached to his condo and watched TV.
He was especially fond of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and also got into
the Watergate hearings.
The New York Times was on strike when Cozzens died, so he never got a proper
obituary there. The obituary in his local newspaper was terse, and
described him this way — “He was a distinguished writer and author,
and was an Army Aviation
Corps veteran of World War II. He was of the Episcopal faith.”
The times for local movies were printed directly beneath the obituary
— playing that week were Saturday Night Fever, Star Wars and Jaws
Paul Zahl, on whose research the above is based, and whose friend Don
Whalen took the contemporary photo of the condo complex, says that
Cozzens was actually more of an Episcopalian agnostic, verging on
atheist. Paul also notes the echo of Jack Kerouac's last isolated days
in Florida — Kerouac watched a lot of TV, too. He was fond of The
American writers often come to strange ends — but then, so do most of us.
[Go here to see a piece Paul wrote about Cozzens's earlier home in
Lambertville, New Jersey — a long way from Jensen Beach.]