James Wolcott, Vanity Fair contributing editor, giant of cultural criticism and protege of Pauline Kael, was a friend of Eve Babitz and calls my Los Angeles Review of Books essay about her “superb” and quotes several paragraphs of it!
To quote him:
“It was one of those sun-sanctified afternoons in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s that I found myself at Venice Beach with the novelist Leonard Michaels, fiction writer Amy Hempel, and Eve Babitz, whose autobiographical vignettes of LA had an easygoing Mediterranean warmth and acceptance (she didn’t billboard over the dark side of LA and Hollywood, she just didn’t elevate it into a noir nihilism) that was the antithesis of Joan Didion’s desert vision of bleached bones beneath numbed nerves. The pleasure principle still prevailed in Eve’s writing, whatever the setbacks and heartbreaks. The four of us attended to the daily show of oiled flexings at Muscle Beach, with Leonard Michaels talking about his next movie, not knowing that there would be no next movie, that the disaster of the adaptation of his novel The Men’s Club would capsize his morale. He later published part of a journal in a literary screening saying that after the screening of the film he felt as if cataracts had grown in the eyes of his soul. Yes, he took it hard. He’s gone now and Eve–well, Eve hasn’t written anything since the traumatic fire that left her body badly burned. (Her most recent book, and a sweetly idiosyncratic book it is, was Two by Two, a personal account of the tango, salsa, and two-step dance scene in LA, came out in 1999 to zero fanfare; it’s a book that even Eve fans don’t seem to have heard of.) I had heard that her dress had caught fire in a parking lot, but only half of that turned out to be true. I often wondered what happened to Eve, having lost contact with her because I fell out of contact with Amy Hempel, not because of any falling out of any other because. I need to get back to her, say hello.
Others have been wondering about Eve Babitz too, such as Holly Brubach, who wrote a receptive, perceptive reappreciation of Eve for the New York Times’s T magazine.
And now my new friend Lili Anolik has alerted me to a superb Eve Redux essay written by Steffie Nelson for the Los Angeles Review of Books that I must have missed during the Christmas craziness. It’s titled “LA Woman,” and it begins…”
Thanks, Mr. Wolcott! I hope we will meet someday in another circle of writers.