Eve Babitz is a woman who will not be pigeonholed. A fixture of the 1970s Los Angeles scene, she was an infamous party girl and muse. She was also an intellectual, artist, journalist, and novelist, whose talent was often overshadowed by her buxom stature and a hedonistic appetite for men, booze, and food. Now an elderly recluse, Babitz is receiving a righteous rediscovering, with a steady reissuing of her works over the last few years.
Sex and Rage: Advice to Young Ladies Eager for a Good Time, originally published in 1979, is one of Babitz’s best gems. It is a short novel that perfectly captures its time and place. When I read it I am readily transported to a swanky party where palm trees are silhouetted by sunset and smog, sipping a mai tai and lounging on an oceanfront veranda, being told a ridiculously funny yarn by the wittiest and wildest woman there.
Sex and Rage also reminds me of a feminist version of Charles Bukowski’s Post Office. Like Bukowski, Babitz is here to bring us the mundane details of how she (barely) supported herself in a beautifully seedy L.A. world, while pursuing her true passions of art, alcohol, and getting down. And like Bukowski’s Henry Chinaski, Babitz’s Jacaranda persona is a narratively omnipresent, genial, and unapologetic jerk -- very likeable but still undeniably wrongheaded most of the time. Ahead of the curve then, Babitz is still leading the pack four decades later. If you’re eager for a good time, read Sex and Rage today.