New York Review of Books Digital

  • Journalist, party girl, bookworm, artist, muse: by the time she’d hit thirty, Eve Babitz had played all of these roles. Immortalized as the nude beauty facing down Duchamp and as one of Ed Ruscha’s Five 1965 Girlfriends, Babitz’s first book showed her to be a razor-sharp writer with tales of her own. Eve’s Hollywood is an album of vivid snapshots of Southern California’s haute bohemians, of outrageously beautiful high-school ingenues and enviably tattooed Chicanas, of rock stars sleeping it off at the Chateau Marmont. And though Babitz’s prose might appear careening, she’s in control as she takes us on a ride through an LA of perpetual delight, from a joint serving the perfect taquito, to the corner of La Brea and Sunset where we make eye contact with a roller-skating hooker, to the Watts Towers. This “daughter of the wasteland” is here to show us that her city is no wasteland at all but a glowing landscape of swaying fruit trees and blooming bougainvillea, buffeted by earthquakes and the Santa Ana winds--and every bit as seductive as she is.

  • No one burned hotter than Eve Babitz. Possessing skin that radiated “its own kind of moral laws,” spectacular teeth, and a figure that was the stuff of legend, she seduced seemingly everyone who was anyone in Los Angeles for a long stretch of the 1960s and ’70s. One man proved elusive, however, and so Babitz did what she did best, she wrote him a book. Slow Days, Fast Company is a full-fledged and full-bodied evocation of a bygone Southern California that far exceeds its mash-note premise. In ten sun-baked, Santa Ana wind–swept sketches, Babitz re-creates a Los Angeles of movie stars distraught over their success, socialites on three-day drug binges holed up in the Chateau Marmont, soap-opera actors worried that tomorrow’s script will kill them off, Italian femmes fatales even more fatal than Babitz. And she even leaves LA now and then, spending an afternoon at the house of flawless Orange County suburbanites, a day among the grape pickers of the Central Valley, a weekend in Palm Springs where her dreams of romance fizzle and her only solace is Virginia Woolf. In the end it doesn’t matter if Babitz ever gets the guy--she seduces us.

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