Babitz’s style is powerfully engaging and readers are instantly transported to a world where “body lifts, skin peels, fat suctioning, teeth bonds and collagen flourish in the gracious noonday shade”. (And where many men’s names begin with ‘W’.) There’s a darkness to the stories – “to be corrupt you have to have once not been, and nobody in this place was ever that” – but her prose is dynamic and somehow keeps readers buoyed.
In “Free Tibet”, the narrator debates whether she is like a character in Proust and has an epiphany about her life thanks to Fay Weldon whose “fiction got through to me where facts had feared to tread”. (So, obviously, I loved this. I’ve only read two books by Fay Weldon, but I took pages of notes from each.) One woman is “too much of a cliché to leave” an unhappy marriage but there’s also “great sex, in an Edgar Allan Poe kind of way” and “endless parties for art”.
“Black Swans” chronicles a life of too much, of pill-popping and drinking, of wanting to be a writer (but not like Joan Didion who scared men, more like M.F.K. Fisher). All while our narrator copes with paralyzing heat by staying in air-conditioned hotels with Walter. “Our histories of abandoned relationships, chaos, and broken glasses and broken dreams. And I do mean broken.” But a comic thread remains: “You could suffer fools a lot more gladly when you were one yourself.”
[Coincidentally, my library copy of Lili Anolik’s new book, Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. (2019), has just arrived as well. I’m starting early: I’m positive there’s a queue behind me for this one!)]