Hol­ly­wood’s Eve: Eve Bab­itz and the Se­cret His­tory of L.A.

The Week (US) - - Arts - By Lili Ano­lik

(Scrib­ner, $26)

Un­til re­cently, more peo­ple had seen Eve Bab­itz naked than read her, said Lidija Haas in Harper’s. An iconic 1963 pho­to­graph show­ing the 20-year-old sit­ting nude across a chess ta­ble from Mar­cel Duchamp epit­o­mized her dis­dain for bound­aries. But Lili Ano­lik’s 2014 Van­ity Fair pro­file of­fered a bet­ter rea­son to ad­mire Bab­itz: her au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal books, each writ­ten in a “lan­guorous, invit­ing tone” that drops the reader into a Los An­ge­les siz­zling with he­do­nism. Ano­lik’s new bi­og­ra­phy adopts a hel­ter-skel­ter ap­proach to por­tray­ing Bab­itz, but “the breezi­ness is a feint: Ano­lik spent years on re­search, metic­u­lously fill­ing in the blanks where Bab­itz or her com­padres had been too drunk to re­mem­ber.” Those ef­forts have yielded a “perky but wist­ful” trib­ute to a unique talent.

Ano­lik’s chatty style can be a huge dis­trac­tion, said Dwight Gar­ner in The New York Times. But “what Hol­ly­wood’s Eve has go­ing for it on ev­ery page is its sub­ject’s ut­ter re­fusal to be dull.” The daugh­ter of a top Hol­ly­wood stu­dio vi­o­lin­ist, Bab­itz knew Igor Stravin­sky as her god­fa­ther and Greta Garbo and Char­lie Chap­lin as fam­ily house­guests. In the 1960s and ’70s, she be­came a friend, lover, and muse to Jim Mor­ri­son, Steve Martin, and An­nie Lei­bovitz. When she be­gan writ­ing at about 28, she turned to Joan Did­ion for help with sell­ing an es­say to Rolling Stone. But in books such as 1974’s Eve’s Hol­ly­wood and 1977’s Slow Days, Fast Com­pany, Bab­itz es­tab­lished her­self, in Ano­lik’s view, as the anti-Did­ion: not a de­tached ob­server of her home­town but an en­thu­si­as­tic par­tic­i­pant in its ex­cesses.

Ano­lik’s “swoon­ing, some­times mad­cap” ac­count won’t an­swer all your ques­tions about Bab­itz, said El­iz­a­beth Hand in The Wash­ing­ton Post. The book de­tails the dis­fig­ur­ing freak ac­ci­dent in 1997 that turned her into a recluse, but it “skims over Bab­itz’s post-9/11 turn to con­ser­vatism.” Even her rape at age 18 gets only a fleet­ing men­tion. Still, Ano­lik de­serves credit for ig­nit­ing a Bab­itz revival. “Ul­ti­mately, the only writer who could do jus­tice to this bril­liant, un­ruly life story is Bab­itz her­self.”

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