The writing of Eve Babitz, much like the author herself, has long had a rapturous cult following. Since 2015 however, she has risen as a more recognisably adored icon of the American literary canon, aided by the New York Review of Books, which has re-issued a beautifully covered collection of her works. An author and artist, Babitz wrote extensively on Los Angeles in its cultural heyday between the 1960s and 1980s. She writes, with lucidity and ferociousness, of an era of cultural hedonism, invoking masterful portraits of a time and place she imbues with effortless romanticism.
Having seen her name bounced around my lockdown Twitter feed, my first encounter with Babitz was through her 1974 publication, Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh and L.A. Dancing between the autobiographical and the fictitious, the book is a self-appointed love story. In it, Babitz collates a stream of indulgent vignettes depicting a series of sensuous entanglements, with both a city and its inhabitants. Her narrator seeks reverie in the mundane, narrating a first-time visit to a Dodgers’ match with the sentimentality of a romantic epic and exaggerating brazenly on the lifelessness of a hot day in Palm Springs.
Continuously, her lyrical descriptions of the weather and setting are the very fabric of her writing, where each emotion is weaved in and then confounded by the wind or rain, the oppressive heat or the clear, tranquil sea. Not content with simply being beautiful, Babitz’s writing is also funny. It is full of wit and sarcasm, showing with levity the ironies and idiosyncrasies of LA life. This is the book to press into your friends’ hands, with the urgency of needing someone to share it with. It is an opportunity for pure escapism, full of simple adventures to get lost in.
“What I want to do is, one Saturday, we’ll wrap all our troubles in dreams and get in the car (you drive)…”
In a year that’s felt like falling off the edge of reality, Babitz’s writing is full of vivid, vibrant life. There is much worse you could do, than wrap yourself into the dreamy world of 1970s LA, and for that, Eve Babitz’s writing is the perfect choice.
Image: arthistory390 via Flickr