INTERVIEW with Eve Babitz

INTERVIEW with Eve Babitz

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An interview with
Eve Babitz
by  B E L L E T R I S T





B E L L E T R I S T

To what extent is Jacaranda Eve Babitz? By this, of course, we mean, can you tell us how much of this book is autobiographical?


E V E    B A B I T Z

I wish I were more like Jacaranda. I made her much hipper than I ever was. Of course, I’m a writer like she is, and I’ve always lived in LA like she has, and we do have some shared experiences, at least one or two, but Jacaranda is also a surfer and a designer of surf boards. I was never cool enough for that.





B E L L E T R I S T

It is clear from all of your books that Los Angeles isn’t only the backdrop for your stories, but also a place that interests you more than the average person. Can you tell us a few of the things that you love most, or at least, you are most passionate about in terms of Los Angeles “the place.”

 

E V E    B A B I T Z


There’s not much left of my LA, or Jacaranda’s LA. My books are really about the time just as much as they are about the place. Of course there’s still Musso’s with the old Hollywood glamourous leather booths, and the Hollywood sign, but the city itself doesn’t feel like it belongs to me the way it did in the 60s and 70s when I was writing about it. My mother was an artist and loved to draw L.A. so I saw it through her eyes. Maybe all young people feel that way, possessive of the place they grow up in, and I just happened to grow up in LA. Probably the young people growing up here now feel the same way about the ‘new’ LA as I did about the ‘old’ LA. It’s theirs now. But to answer your question about what I love most… taquitos. I’m still passionately enraptured with taquitos and Olvera Street.


Maybe all young people feel that way, possessive of the place they grow up in, and I just happened to grow up in LA. 
— Eve Babitz
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B E L L E T R I S T

We do love the epigraph from Agatha Christie’s An Autobiography, but we’re interested: first, why did you choose it then? And what does it mean to you now? Is it most important to be around people who are amusing? Especially as we get older?

 

E V E    B A B I T Z

I do want to be around amusing people now that I’m older, but the big change is now I want them to be sober. I never would have imagined that when I chose the epigraph, which I did because I thought it was fabulous and I have always loved the perfect wit of the British writers. Amusing is important, but my definition has expanded to include people who are caring and thoughtful and supportive. And, again, sober. And thank God for that. But I still think the Agatha Christie quote is fabulous.





B E L L E T R I S T

This is a very specific question pertaining to a line we loved from the very beginning of the book where you write: “Colman had been depraved in his youth and understood entirely her desire to be depraved in her youth, too.” What is it about the desire to be bad and almost degenerate that compels us as kids and teens and 20-somethings? We aren’t saying everyone is this way, and of course we aren’t admitting too much fault, but we do know, as people who read, that depravity, especially at a young age, is alluring! But why??

 

E V E    B A B I T Z

It’s all about what you can get away with, that thrill of figuring out just how much you can get away with. When you’re young, that’s the whole point of everything. You don’t really know who you are yet (or at least I didn’t) so you’re reckless because it’s sexy and it seems like a good way to find out. Then one day you wake up with a terrible headache and suddenly everything you do has something called consequences and you really have no idea how it happened. It goes from Fun Fun Fun, to Fun with consequences to no fun at all!





B E L L E T R I S T

Is it still true that: “people with brains go to New York and people with faces go West?” Some people want to argue that Los Angeles is changing…


E V E    B A B I T Z

Of course you can argue that LA is changing and you could argue that New York is changing too. Really anyone can argue anything they want. It’s true that Jacaranda probably wouldn’t be able to recognize Los Angeles today. So I don’t know if I’d still have her think that. I really don’t know what she’d think but I would like to talk to her about it!


I’m still passionately enraptured with taquitos and Olvera Street.
— Eve Babitz
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B E L L E T R I S T

ADVICE to YOUNG LADIES EAGER for a GOOD TIME. As women who were recently young ladies, it is not clear to us that youth is sort of wasted on the young, and that if you are young and looking for a good time it is also true that you will also find yourself in a lot of miserable situations. Why is it, do you think, that it is still important to remain youthful and open even when young love and professional uncertainty are such painful facets of young life?


E V E    B A B I T Z

You’ll find yourself in a lot of miserable situations regardless, whether you’re seeking out a good time or not, but it’s better to try to enjoy oneself than give up all together and wither away. I have always preferred to look on the bright side.





B E L L E T R I S T

You repeat the following twice: “secrets are lies that you tell to your friends…” We are trying to wrap our heads around this one, but can’t seem to figure out what it means. Can you tell us?


E V E    B A B I T Z

Not a chance! You’re just going to have to be puzzled for a while and hopefully it clicks or maybe it doesn’t.





B E L L E T R I S T

Max is debatably the most controversial and magnetic character in the book. Where did the inspiration for Jacaranda and Max’s relationship come from, and why is she so scared of him?


E V E    B A B I T Z

Oh, well, speaking of secrets.  Max will always be a secret. The person he was based on has now passed away, but it’s been a secret all these years so it’s going to remain so. But he was a scary guy. The thing that’s so terrifying about the Max’s of the world is how completely in control they are of every situation. And because they’re so in control, a single thing they say, or even just the tone they use to say it, can completely ruin the rest of your night or the rest of your life, whichever comes first. When that relationship begins, Jacaranda is young and innocent and Max is older and sophisticated and beautiful. For Max, it’s a diversion from his real life, but for her it is real life. So one very concrete terrifying thing is the knowledge that at any moment he could take off on another plane and leave her behind.





B E L L E T R I S T

What do you think the relationship between them says about Jacaranda’s personality? Have you ever experienced a relationship like that?


E V E    B A B I T Z

Yes, I think I gave away with my last answer that I have. Everyone who was 22 in the late 60’s and 70’s had those relationships. There were a lot of power imbalances, all of us thinking we were in control when we weren’t, when no one was. The illusion of control can drive a lot of dangerous behavior.





B E L L E T R I S T

Belletrist loves Eve Babitz. We have loved Eve Babitz since The New York Review of Books decided to reprint Slow Days Fast Company and Eve’s Hollywood, but Sex & Rage is different, Sex & Rage is a novel. And with that, we wonder, do you have higher hopes for its implications in its 21st century reprinting? Can it be read as a modern tale of a young woman making her way from LA to NY? We guess that’s up to the person reading, but still, we love to know what the author, herself, thinks. Is Jacaranda meant for the 21st century?


E V E    B A B I T Z

Thank you for loving the writing. It’s staggering to me that the work still resonates and is having a small renaissance, and I so appreciate it. As far as Jacaranda in the 21st century… it’s an interesting question. Jacaranda is a complete original. She’s a very dreamy person who lives in the present moment and inside her own head. I think it’s for the reader to decide if there’s room for someone like that in today’s world!



 

When the surf was hot, everything reached a state of hurling glory. 
— Eve Babitz




 

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