Eve Babitz, known for her joyful, sharp, confessional portrayals of Los Angeles and her personal adventures there, died last Friday of complications of Huntington’s disease at U.C.L.A. Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 78.
Dwight Garner for The New York Times called Babitz’s writing “like Nora Ephron’s by way of Joan Didion, albeit with more lust and drugs and tequila”; one of the chief pleasures of her writing is its exciting narrator, and she was aware of this. (To Joseph Heller at 20 years old, seeking publication, she wrote only, “I am a stacked 18-year-old blonde on Sunset Boulevard. I am also a writer.”) Her writing had a deep love for the possibilities of Los Angeles, which in 2019 she told VICE is no longer the Los Angeles of her youth and young adulthood:
The L.A. I lived in and wrote about doesn’t exist anymore. Everything is transient. The Los Angeles of my youth was just that—mine. Everyone feels like that about the place they grew up, my place just happens to be L.A. Of course, to me it’s a pale ghost, but to someone else growing up now, it’s their home. It was a small factory town (that old cliché, but it was). Now it’s an international city, probably not that different from New York or Tokyo. Although you still can’t surf in those places.
After a freak accident sent her into burn recovery in 1997, Babitz became notoriously reclusive. But Babitz’s work recently received a second wave of popularity. In 2014 Lili Anolik published a glowing and extensive Vanity Fair profile on Babitz, calling her work “under-discovered and under-read”; her work was reissued by several presses, NYRB Classics released a collection of her essays (“I Used To Be Charming”) in 2019, Anolik released Babitz’s biography that same year, Hulu is developing L.A. Woman, and a new generation of young readers are discovering her writing. Babitz was pleased, but not stunned by the attention: in 2019, she told LA Mag, “I always took myself seriously as a writer. I suppose it took 40 years for the world to catch up with me.”