Lili Anolik on the Complicated Relationship Between Eve Babitz and Joan Didion
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Lili Anolik is the guest. She is the author of Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A., out now from Scribner.
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From the episode:
Lili Anolik: Reading Joan Didion’s Paris Review interview, they ask her what women writers she looked to. And she says, I did not look to any of them. She said, well, there was some kinship with the Brontes; I liked their theatricality. But I wasn’t temperamentally attuned to Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf. I loved Hemingway; I taught myself how to write using Hemingway.
And I think she was very shrewd about—I mean, she had no choice but to be a genius at that time to break through as a woman writer who wasn’t going to be talked about as “a woman writer.” But she also played a game a bit, where she would identify with male writers. It’s very particular. Whereas Eve, her artistic idol would be Marilyn Monroe. Joan lives this very respectable life—Berkeley, Vogue, publishes a novel, is very publicly married to a guy who kind of protects her.
The way that men would talk to me about Eve when I first started doing this: “Eve Babitz with the great big tits.” She was considered a groupie and kind of a bimbo. I mean, she didn’t make it easy on herself. Whereas somebody like Didion was a much shrewder manager of her own career. This is to Eve’s credit, because she was what she was and she wasn’t going to play those games, but you can see why she had a harder time when she was actually writing.
Brad Listi: Sure. And this relationship with her and Joan, you talk about Joan not mentioning that she was measuring herself by any female writers. She saw Eve’s talent from the jump. They were sort of circling one another back in the 60s. I think they recognized the talent that each had, and maybe recognized the way that they complemented each other. Though I don’t know if they would have put it that way at the time.
Lili Anolik: Joan was almost nine years older than Eve. When they met, Eve was 24 and Joan was almost 33. That’s a big difference at that age, you know? But I don’t think Eve had a better supporter ever than Joan, and it’s becoming more and more clear at reading these letters how incredibly helpful Joan was to Eve. But there’s a lot of resentment toward Joan on Eve’s part. It’s a fascinating relationship.
Lili Anolik is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Her work has also appeared in Harper’s, Esquire, Elle, and The Believer. She lives in New York City with her husband and two young sons.