New York Review Classics is known for keeping underground classics in print and is behind the recent republication of Eve Babitz's first two books: Eve's Hollywood and Slow Days, Fast Company:The World, The Flesh and L.A. I thought these books would be good preparation/background for an upcoming trip to Southern California. So I started with Eve's Hollywood (1974), which is something akin to a memoir, but shrouded in fiction. I believe some names and incidents were change dot protect the innocent. Babitz comes from a talented family and is unabashedly proud of L.A. and resents the depictions from the like s of Joan Didion and Nathanael West who see it as a sort of cultural wasteland. Her father was a violinist who worked on movie scores for Fox and her mother was an artist. Stravinsky was her godfather and knew everyone from Jim Morrison to members of the Manson Family. Much of this is about her formative years at Hollywood High, an abortive stint in New York, her impressions and aspirations about life in California in the 60s and 70s. There is a lot of name dropping and several memorable observations throughout the book. She had this to say about cocaine:
There are only three thing sot say about cocaine. One, there is no such thing as enough. Two, it will never be as good as the first time. Three, those first two facts constitute a tragedy of expense in ways that can't be experienced unless you've had cocaine.
Here's her defense of L.A.:
It takes a certain kind of innocence to like L.A., anyway. It requires a certain plain happiness inside to be happy in L.A., to choose it and be happy here.
It is a smart, entertaining, profound, inspiring, and sometimes funny. I particularity liked the section called "The Landmark" in which she contemplates Janis Joplin's O.D. in which she suggests instead of shooting up in her hotel room she should have gone out for taquitos-one of life's great pleasures (something that I can appreciate as an ex-pat, it is extremely difficult to find good Mexican food outside of North America). She even includes a hand drawn map to show readers how to get to her favorite stand on Olvera Street.