Tag Archives: L.A.

My Own Eve Babitz Obsession

Probably it’s too soon for me to me to be diving into this trend, but Eve is very much on my mind right now. For one thing, I have a massive hangover. For another, I’m in a February funk and inclined to be jealous of those sunny, smoggy L.A. days she describes in those books of hers that pretend to be fiction but are blatantly based on her own utterly insane life.

Wonderfully formed pieces lacking remorse, just right there in your face like her take on sex. So many of her love affairs are public record: Harrison Ford, Jim Morrison, Paul Ruscha, Steve Martin (she told him to wear that white suit), and on and on. There’s never any hint of coyness or manipulation, she’s just fully there, shockingly entire yet pure. No wonder that famous photo with Marcel Duchamp works so well: Eve with her face hidden but her fulsome nakedness on display, him bent over his chess game, entirely in his head, and both divinely oblivious.

I am so envious of her days with no pleasure declined, no curiosity unrelieved, everything just see and take. I love it, the whole sex and drugs scene of the late sixties and seventies. What a perfect vicar she is for all of us so weighted down with responsibility and stratagems and fear. Worrying about getting hurt and also about who we might ourselves hurt, entrenched in our rules and laws and other boring nonsense.

It takes a narcissist I suppose, but Eve’s got an unflinching and unmistakably loving eye, because that’s what loving means. And she’s got the language of a woman raised on the best literature, the sense and rhythm of it is in her blood and bone, all that instinctive selection and refinement and pacing and purpose. She’s an artist in the service of art and nothing else ever, and so she’s also separate, isolated. 

And she’s all the craze these #MeToo feminist days, especially among the millennials, and I suspect for all the wrong reasons, taken totally out of context. Naturally there’s a recent biography (Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. by Lili Anolik), a truly pathetic if unintentionally hilarious one worth reading for its key to all those roman a clef identities, but equally for its wonderful subtext. The author practically harasses her legendary but reclusive subject in order to promote herself, to claim literary equality with Babitz and Joan Didion to boot with a rudely inserted thesis on the novel to justify it all, and just – no. Lauding Slow Days, Fast Company over the fresher, freer Eve’s Hollywood because who needs all that joy? Oh, you have to read it to enjoy both these woman playing each other, and for the way Eve somehow forgets the other’s name every time they meet, and cadges meals, and then flicks her away like cigarette ash.

Not that Eve smokes or does drugs or even drinks anymore; AA helped there, and others have stepped in to steady the always wobbly writer now this resurrection is bringing in some fresh funds.

But Eve, following a devastating accident in which half her body was burned (thankfully not her face or feet), took a hard right turn, politically. I find this interesting and perhaps disturbing, speaking here as the author of an entire novel concerning a woman who took a hard right turn, and why, and what happened afterward. So I’ve been examining Eve through her writing to try to figure this out, in effect to remember what I was thinking then myself.

Is Eve’s conservative stance a defiant declaration of independence, a projection of her old fear, as she put it, of being adjectivized? I think that’s part of it. But Eve, who noticed everything (the black music blaring over a very white party in Sex and Rage) apparently never feels the urge to interfere; she observes, and that’s it. Why bother with politics when you have a life? So instead she watches the L.A. riots from a suite at the Chateau Marmont, merely regretting the destruction of familiar sites. Or so she implies, and it matches what we know of her. So maybe the ground was tilled all along, just waiting for the right seed. Maybe it has something to so with what’s always been missing from Eve, all the usual internalized cultural crap, the need to be good. But what do I know?

Except I know that the artist always protects the artist, whatever it takes. So that’s happening.

Photo credits: Chateau Marmont by Kelly Smith (CC BY-SA 2.0) / Hollywood by LWYang (CC by 2.0)

(PLEASE NOTE: The sale on the Kindle version of Worthy of This Great City ends on February 15th, so right now it’s as low as it goes. BUT before buying the book please read the Reader Alert on the Home Page, then the full Prologue on the Excerpts page. Really, do that.)