As a born and bred California girl I have always felt a special affinity for California authors. Reading Joan Didion for the first time felt like finding a kindred spirit, someone who was also in awe of the weird, wild spirit of California. I recently felt that surge of recognition again when reading Eve Babitz. While Didion might be the cool older sister, Babitz is the senior who taught you how to smoke in the bathroom on the first day of high school. Her stories capture Los Angeles on the cusp of change, young people exploring their sexuality, their freedoms and fighting off the post-Summer of Love malaise.
Two of her novels have recently been reissued, Black Swans and L.A. Woman, both worth a read. However I would recommend starting with her novel Slow Days, Fast Company. The semi-autobiographical novella takes you through the heart of LA and to the outer limits of Southern California. A particularly evocative chapter explores the high-society culture of Southern California's wealthy farmers. From inland to the coast Babitz paints an essential and indelible portrait of Los Angeles and her denizens.
Read this if you like:
- Joan Didion
- Elaine Dundy
- Raymond Chandler
- Los Angeles
- The podcast "You Must Remember This"