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L.A. WOMAN by Eve Babitz
Although relatively new to me, Eve Babitz was a cult legend of the American lit scene, documenting 1970s Los Angeles in all its decadent glory through her blend of memoir and fiction. Think Annie Ernaux meets JK Huysmans with a twist of Almost Famous’s Penny Lane. It’s one of her flings, with Jim Morrison, that lends both title and conceptual lynchpin to this richly indulgent (I mean that in a good way), often sordid art and shagfest through the city at its propulsive peak. Which, I suppose makes sense given he apparently wrote The Doors’ classic about Babitz.
Morrison swans in and out of the story, mostly bookending the action, an ethereal presence in an otherwise hyper-real portrait of the city of angels. In between, Babitz turns the lens on herself through Sophie, a thinly-veiled autobiographical stand-in. It is a strange form of self-criticism, one that often flits into aggrandising when celebrating the era’s rampant hedonism. Much more sympathetic is her aunt, Lola, an ageing musical ingenue wrestling with memories of her former life in Germany.
Sharply observed and full of caustic barbs, LA Woman can sometimes tend towards the dense and overbearing. Just like the city itself.
L.A. Woman by Eve Babitz
Canongate, 2019 (Orig. 1982)