Author Topic: Eve Babitz  (Read 608 times)

Eve Babitz
« on: August 16, 2020, 12:21:33 AM »
https://www.nyrb.com/products/eve-s-hollywood?variant=2197698945

I had never heard of the woman until the other day when I was given this book as a present, but I'm an instant fan: it is absolutely wonderful.  There is no real structure, just a collection of essays and fragments thrown together, but her voice is strong and consistent throughout.  Observation is sharp and vivid - she's particularly good at describing enthusiasm, whether hers or others' - and she depicts bad behaviour without being tiresomely moralistic.  Her prose can occasionally soar a little too high, but if a writer is ever to be allowed to run a little purple then surely it should be when writing about the Los Angeles of the 60s and 70s.

She's brilliant on her school days with the beautiful offspring of beautiful stars, there are fantastic passages on her first LSD trip and how she was blown away by Lawrence of Arabia (the film, not the man). She provides startling reportage on the relationship between 'James Byrns' and 'Jack Hunter' (pseudonyms for very famous rock stars) and she is so persuasive in her love for LA that she makes me want to visit ASAP. Plus she is the only great writer I know of who looks like she belongs in a teenage boy's wet dreams - that's her on the cover. 

How the hell has she been allowed to be forgotten?  Or is it that everyone knows of her and I'm only getting here late?

Re: Eve Babitz
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2020, 01:13:43 PM »
She's interesting - some white hot seminal LA margins stuff - but her work can be a bit repetitive, and she only really wrote one great book before it seems the partying began to really take a toll.

In terms of how she's been allowed to be forgotten, a Vanity Fair writer Lili Anolik recently wrote a book about her called Eve's Hollywood which I've had on the shelf for a while. She did quite a good interview about Eve on Bret Easton Ellis's podcast and Bret basically spilled that latter day Eve has become a legendarily a sad character, invoking images of Sunset Blvd. She was very badly burned in an accident and seemed to completely withdraw from public life, and even from her own friends and family. She now apparently watches Fox News round the clock and is a right-of-Trump republican shut in, which is a sad and unexpected fall imo. Although with that said, she was always at the centre of her own stories and that seems to be the most LA type tragic transition imaginable so perhaps not so unexpected. 

Lili said a tv streamer bought the rights to all Eve's work so she's not destitute - but I wonder if they might be waiting to adapt it posthumously as she would be considered super problematic now, particularly with the kinds of people an adaptation of her work would be aimed at.

I'm obsessed with LA, and in particular films and books set there - it's this incredible wonderland where seemingly anything can happen, good or bad, and she writes wonderfully about it at times. I re-read her when I was there and she definitely gets at whatever it is in the air there.

Re: Eve Babitz
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2020, 01:28:42 PM »
Sorry if this is obvious, but if you like her you might like Joan Didion who also wrote brilliantly about California in the 1960s, with Slouching Towards Bethlehem her best book I think- though with Didion I find the appearances by celebrities in her memoir writing, eg Angelica Houston in Blue Nights ,a bit annoying, its as if the appearance of someone who's face I already know stops me visually imagining the story

Re: Eve Babitz
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2020, 03:50:34 PM »
Sorry if this is obvious, but if you like her you might like Joan Didion who also wrote brilliantly about California in the 1960s, with Slouching Towards Bethlehem her best book I think- though with Didion I find the appearances by celebrities in her memoir writing, eg Angelica Houston in Blue Nights ,a bit annoying, its as if the appearance of someone who's face I already know stops me visually imagining the story

No, I've never read any Didion at all but will give her a look.  The Babitz book is the first that has ever made me interested in learning about LA as a city, as a place to live.  As a movie buff of course I have long been fascinated by tales of Hollywood, but that's the industry 'Hollywood', the art form 'Hollywood'.  I've never even clicked with Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy, except for LA Confidential.

Re: Eve Babitz
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2020, 06:47:26 PM »
She's interesting - some white hot seminal LA margins stuff - but her work can be a bit repetitive, and she only really wrote one great book before it seems the partying began to really take a toll.

In terms of how she's been allowed to be forgotten, a Vanity Fair writer Lili Anolik recently wrote a book about her called Eve's Hollywood which I've had on the shelf for a while. She did quite a good interview about Eve on Bret Easton Ellis's podcast and Bret basically spilled that latter day Eve has become a legendarily a sad character, invoking images of Sunset Blvd. She was very badly burned in an accident and seemed to completely withdraw from public life, and even from her own friends and family. She now apparently watches Fox News round the clock and is a right-of-Trump republican shut in, which is a sad and unexpected fall imo. Although with that said, she was always at the centre of her own stories and that seems to be the most LA type tragic transition imaginable so perhaps not so unexpected. 



That biography is called Hollywood's Eve.  Eve's Hollywood is Babitz's own book.  Is that the one you would rate as her 'great' book or is it one of her others?

Re: Eve Babitz
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2020, 08:45:45 PM »
That biography is called Hollywood's Eve.  Eve's Hollywood is Babitz's own book.  Is that the one you would rate as her 'great' book or is it one of her others?

You're absolutely right - I meant to check before I hit post. The book of hers that I consider to be the classic is Slow Days, Fast Company. Although episodic it hangs together much better as a book than some of her other work - and is a much leaner book (to its credit) than Eve's Hollywood, where she was still finding her voice (although some times that can really add to a particular passage).

As I recall there was some great stuff in Eve's Hollywood, and it's certainly worth having to dip into if you like Slow Days, but Slow Days Fast Company feels like a front to back almost hallucinatory classic. The goodreads score, not always infallible but a good indication, seems to bear out that it's the most loved of her books. I haven't read any of the ones that came after but have heard some not so good reports.

Would definitely add another vote for Joan Didion if you like this kind of thing - although it's a much colder, more dispassionate and more intellectual view of LA. People rave about her non fiction - and her essay books Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album are mesmerising. Her novel, Play It As It Lays, is one of my favourite works set in LA. Where Eve gets the warmth, Joan can really get the ice - and they'd probably be a fun and instructive back to back read.

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