Original Eve

So the name of the main character in my WIP is Eve. Got that name from one of my favorite writers of all time, Eve Babitz. She wrote novels and short stories in the 70s and 80s. In the 90s she wrote a non-fiction book on dancing. These days she’s doing collage art for magazine covers (recently there was one of Henry James for Ploughshares) and writing magazine articles and working on another novel about Hollywood.

Eve’s Hollywood is not a place of movie stars, well, the stars are there, but only in walk-on parts. Eve’s Hollywood is more rock and roll and surfing and art and partying and trying to figure out the meaning of life and how to write and where to find the next party.

I have three of Eve’s hard cover first editions in excellent condition depsite the fact that I read them each over and over again because Babitz does not put out a book a year and I need my fix.

Sex & Rage remains my favorite Eve Babitz novel. The story is about Jacaranda, a California surfer girl in the 60s who falls into a bad crowd and gets seriously hurt. Then she slowly pulls her life together with the help of, what else? Writing. There’s an image in the book of Jacaranda sitting on her bed (a mattress on the floor of a room she rents that holds little else) with her typewriter in her lap, pecking out a piece of fiction.

This is after a spectacular bottoming out that includes copious amounts of alcohol and drugs and a very sleasy guy called Etienne. Jacaranda’s day job was painting day-glo designs on surf boards.

This book was published in 1979. I was 24 years old and very romantic. More than anything, I wanted to be a writer. More than anything I wanted to tell my story. And I loved stories about writers who fought their way back to the page from a hell of drink and other drugs. Still do.

Of course, my own story is less spectacular than Jacaranda’s. I’m a writer who burned out on teaching, not vodka and cocaine. But then, that’s why I write fiction. To give my characters more interesting disasters than I’ve ever lived through.

Babitz has said in interviews that her books are her life. She doesn’t come out and say “thinly veiled autobiography” but she does call her stories and novels “memoirs” so the line between fact and fiction blurs some when I talk about her writing and her life. She wrote L.A. Woman about a Jim Morrison groupie with enough realism to make the reader assume she’s putting her own obsession on the page. And Babitz did have her rock and roll adventures. She designed album covers for Linda Ronstadt, The Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield, so you know she hung out with some seriously talented people.

A nude picture photographer Julian Wasser took of her at age 20, playing chess in a museum with artist Marcel Duchamp (Duchamp’s work is in the background) is pretty famous

but I like this one (circa 1982) with her cat better

So anyway, that’s the original Eve. And what this all has to do with my writing process is this. Some days a writer just needs to think about her book. Sometimes thinking about your book can take you down some strange paths that on the surface might not appear to have any bearing at all with the work in question. In my experience, it’s always good to follow the strange path.

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