I received a review copy of this title from New York Review Books via Edelweiss.
I have to admit that I have never been to Los Angeles and the quiet, New England girl in me has always been afraid to even think about visiting the famed city on the other coast. Images of the fast life with celebrities, drugs and name dropping via shows like The Kardashians and The Real Housewives are just too much for me. Eve Babitz was the original glamor girl and in her book Slow Days, Fast Company she describes the Hollywood of the 1960’s and 1970’s that was just as intense, if not more so, as the Hollywood of the 21st century.
Slow Days, Fast Company is a collection of stories about Eve’s life as an artist and a writer living in the heart of Hollywood. She meets countless celebrities that are the who’s who of L.A. in the 60’s and 70’s, from artists to rock stars and movie execs. The impression that I got from the casual tone of the book is that she is unfazed by many of the rich and famous characters that she encounters. In the story entitled, “Heroine” Eve is introduced to Janis Joplin twice but both times Joplin is so strung out on drugs that she is incapable of speech. Babitz isn’t angry or disappointed that she never gets to speak with the famous rock star, but instead she is sad that drugs have consumed and destroyed another life with so much potential for greatness. Eve herself drinks quite a bit, does cocaine, and pops a lot of Valium, but she draws the line at taking Heroine because she has seen too many people destroyed by it.
Babitz is open and brutally frank about her sex life throughout the stories. She manages affairs with multiple men at one time and engages in the occasional ménage à trois. Her attitude towards sex and these various relationships is also rather laid back, as if balancing several men at a time and sleeping with two men at a time is something that is totally normal and part of every day life. There is also an undertone of humor as far as her sex life is concerned, especially when it comes to her lover named Shawn. Shawn was a gay man living in the American south with his partner, and now finds himself in the middle of the Hollywood scene and hanging out with Eve Babitz. She takes him on as her lover and he features prominently in several of the stories as they go on vacation together, go out to dinner, and do other things that are typical of a romantic couple.
My favorite story in the collection is the one entitled “Bad Day at Palm Springs.” Eve is introduced to a rich socialite named Nikki Kroenberg who is married to a lawyer and has too much time on her hands. Nikki invites Eve and Shawn to spend the weekend with her in Palm Springs and Eve jumps at the chance to spend a few quiet days away from the smog and congestion of L.A. In this story Eve gives us a lesson about the fluidity and imprecise nature of time on the west coast. Shawn says that he will be ready for their weekend getaway at 7 p.m. but two hours later Eve and Nikki are still sitting in Shawn’s kitchen waiting for him to finish a photo shoot. Eve deals with the constant waiting by always keeping a paperback book with her; but the pressure of keeping Nikki busy while they wait for Shawn causes Eve to swallow a few extra Valium. When they finally make it to Palm Springs, the slow pace of life in the sun is just too much for Eve and she is itching to get back to her life in L.A.
In Slow Days, Fast Company Babitz provides an inside look at the life of the rich and famous while at the same time not taking herself too seriously. I never felt that Babitz was name dropping to make herself sound more important and for this reason the book was a highly entertaining read. I still don’t have a desire to visit California anytime soon, but experiencing it through the eyes of this writer and artist is amusing.
About the Author:
Eve Babitz is the author of several books of fiction, including Sex and Rage: Advice to Young Ladies Eager for a Good Time, L.A. Woman, and Black Swans: Stories. Her nonfiction works include Fiorucci, the Book and Two by Two: Tango, Two-Step, and the L.A. Night. She has written for publications including Ms. and Esquire and in the late 1960s designed album covers for the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and Linda Ronstadt. Her novel Eve’s Hollywood is published by NYRB Classics.