Books on GIF #47 — 'Eve's Hollywood' by Eve Babitz
|Books on GIF||Jun 4, 2017|
This Sunday's book is "Eve's Hollywood" by Eve Babitz.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I had a beer with some friends. I was recounting a story about something and I couldn't be sure I was remembering one of the details correctly. "Doesn't matter," one friend said. "Only the story matters." She meant its greatness. I kept thinking of that as I read this memoir-esque collection of vignettes by Eve Babitz that's full of great stories. More on that in a second. First, it must be noted that Eve Babitz is fascinating. She's: a journalist, a brilliant writer, a bon vivant, Igor Stravinsky's goddaughter, a book lover, a beauty lover, a cat lover and a lover of having lovers. (She was also photographed playing chess in the nude with Marcel Duchamp, who was clothed). And above all things she loves:
I've been to Los Angeles twice, and I don't quite understand the appeal. My reaction is always:
This book made me want to give LA another try. "Eve's Hollywood" is full of beautiful people, from wannabe starlets to wannabe surfers to wannabe rockers, who sometimes end up in movies, sometimes end up dead and sometimes end up in the Manson family. It's also a place with excellent food. In one of my favorite essays, 'The Landmark,' Babitz theorizes that Janis Joplin might not have OD'd alone in a Los Angeles hotel if someone had given her taquitos from a particular vendor instead of heroin. Life saving taquitos? Mmmm:
And she also describes Los Angeles as a place best enjoyed if you don't take it too seriously, which is a statement that could also be applied to life in general. She eschews seriousness, pretense and artifice throughout her collection of stories that were written in the late 1960s and early 1970s and in the New Journalism style of that period. But she definitely has her take on the genre: less fastidious and more, well, fun. For one example, some of the names of the characters have been changed. For another, I've never seen a writer use the word
to more devastating and revelatory effect. Some other noteworthy pieces include "Sins of the Green Death," which is about her sexual awakening, "New York Confidential," which is about LSD and her year in New York, and the "Dedication," where over several pages she thanks everyone from her parents to Joan Didion ("for having to be who I am not"), Jackson Browne, Pauline Kael, the Chateau Marmont and Harrison Ford:
Not all of the pieces achieved greatness — some were esoteric and others were boring — but there is enough good material here for me to want to read more works by Babitz. And there was enough for me to suggest you do so, too.
'Eve's Hollywood' by Eve Babitz was originally published in 1972 and 1974 by Eve Babitz, and in 2015 by The New York Review of Books. 296 pages.
What's next? In the coming weeks I'll review 'South and West' by Joan Didion and 'The Moor's Account' by Laila Lalami, among others.
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Thanks for reading!*
* Thanks especially to Donna for copy editing this review!