Eve Babitz, "the voluptuous bard of Los Angeles, who wrote with sharp wit and a connoisseur's enthusiasm of its outsize characters and sensuous pleasures--from taquitos to LSD--and found critical acclaim and a new audience late in life," died December 17, the New York Times reported. She was 78. Erica Spellman Silverman, her longtime agent, said Babitz "was seen as too sexy and too lightweight to be serious. But from the beginning I found her work startling and honest."
Babitz was 30 when her first book, Eve's Hollywood, "a memoir in shardlike essays, was published in 1974," the Times noted, adding: "In the dedication, which runs to many pages, she thanked her orthodontist, her gynecologist, the Chateau Marmont, freeways, sour cream (Ms. Babitz was an unsung food writer, a Colette of the Sunset Strip), Rainier ale (an aid to losing her virginity) and 'the Didion-Dunnes, for having to be what I'm not.' "
She would go on to write five more books, including autobiographical novels like Sex and Rage (1979) and L.A. Woman (1982); essay collections like Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, the Flesh and L.A. (1977), as well as magazine articles. Although the books "sold modestly," the Times said that "the misadventures they recounted, delivered in Ms. Babitz's luxurious, undulating prose, were required reading for those who had a taste for deeply personal writing by female authors like her peers Nora Ephron, Cynthia Heimel and Laurie Colwin."
Spellman Silverman called her F. Scott Fitzbabitz because "she was the voice of her age," adding that she phoned her author every Monday morning to make sure she was awake and writing. Babitz got sober in the 1980s and published her sixth book, the essay collection Black Swans, in 1993.
Babitz became a recluse after an accident in 1997, but during the past decade she has had a revival, "with a generation of young book influencers like Emma Roberts, Instagram's Belletrist, trumpeting her work, reissued by several publishing houses starting in 2015," the Times wrote. Babitz is now published in 12 countries and has made 10 times her earnings from the first go-round, according to Spellman Silverman.
In 2010, Lili Anolik began pursuing Babitz, a quest that became a Vanity Fair article in 2014, and then a personal biography, Hollywood's Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. (2019). NYRB Classics published I Used to Be Charming, a collection of previously printed essays and one new work, in 2019.
"She was happy and grateful that people were reading her and writing about her," Spellman Silverman said. "Her revival made the last years of her life possible. She was writing about women in a way that doesn't exist anymore. A new generation is responding to her abandon and her grit. I think women no longer have that kind of freedom. Eve never saw herself as a victim. She was a free spirit and living her life the way want she wanted to."