Los Angeles in the 1960s and 70s was the pop culture capital of the world—a movie factory, a music factory, a dream factory. Eve Babitz was the ultimate factory girl, a pure product of LA.
The goddaughter of Igor Stravinsky and a graduate of Hollywood High, Babitz, age twenty, posed for a photograph with French artist Marcel Duchamp in 1963. They were seated at a chess board, deep in a game. She was naked; he was not. The picture, cheesecake with a Dadaist twist, made her an instant icon of art and sex. She spent the rest of the decade on the Sunset Strip, rocking and rolling, and honing her notoriety. There were the album covers she designed: for Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds, to name but a few. There were the men she seduced: Jim Morrison, Ed Ruscha, Harrison Ford, to name but a very few.
Then, at nearly thirty, her It girl days numbered, Babitz was discovered—as a writer—by Joan Didion. She would go on to produce seven books, usually billed as novels or short story collections, always autobiographies and confessionals. Her prose achieved that American ideal: art that stayed loose, maintained its cool; art so sheerly enjoyable as to be mistaken for simple entertainment. Yet somehow the world wasn’t paying attention. Babitz languished.
It was almost twenty years after her last book was published, and only a few years before her death in 2021 that Babitz became a literary star, recognized as not just an essential L.A. writer, but the essential. This late-blooming vogue bloomed, in large part, because of a magazine profile by Lili Anolik, who, in 2010, began obsessively pursuing Babitz, a recluse since burning herself up in a fire in the 90s.
Anolik’s elegant and provocative book is equal parts biography and detective story. It is also on dangerously intimate terms with its subject: artist, writer, muse, and one-woman zeitgeist, Eve Babitz.
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