Not Like Other Girls

Robert Hundley

This posting is a preview of The LARB Quarterly, no. 33: “What Is L.A.?” Available quickly by yearly subscription.


I WAS AT a bash in Hollywood when a person arrived out of the toilet to say Eve Babitz had died. “I saw it on Twitter,” he explained. “In the lavatory.” “She died in the bathroom?” a person mentioned. “I believed she was by now dead,” claimed someone else. Anyone else reported, “Who’s Eve Babitz?” (She was in town from the East Coast and so can be forgiven.)

It is a commonplace in stories about Eve Babitz to position out the commonplaces in tales about Eve Babitz. Every person is aware about the nude chess recreation with Duchamp, immortalized in a renowned photograph and decades later on brought down to earth in Babitz’s essay “I Was a Naked Pawn for Art” the very long record of enthusiasts the axiomatic a person-liners by her and about her, particularly the just one most repeated in the days adhering to her dying: “Death, to me, has always been the previous word in folks acquiring pleasurable without you.” But there was absolutely nothing commonplace about Eve, whose model, as numerous remembrances have previously intimated, is inimitable. She wasn’t like other women, women who healthy neatly into her individual Hollywood taxonomies (“I am speedy to categorize,” she wrote, “and obtain it saves mountains of time”): sorority women, all “similarly unique” with their matching vehicles, their particularities dissolving in “timeless flames of love” dull ladies entranced by “ordinary sunsets,” lulled into the dullness of heteronormativity and relationship. Driving to a uninteresting girl’s tedious marriage at the starting of a story named “Sirocco,” Eve’s sights are set on an additional horizon: “I was positive that someplace a grandiose carnival was likely on in the sky and I was missing it.”

Babitz was an objective chronicler of ingenues, which had to necessarily mean she was not an ingenue herself. She was a genius. “She acted like a groupie,” the artist Ed Ruscha admitted, but she was not a groupie: “she was so much of a persona.” In her essay “Ingenues, Thunderbird Ladies, and the Neighborhood Belle: A Bewildering Tragedy,” she’s the belle: the only singular entity between a sea of fungible copies and commodities, the specific magnificence as unmatched as Eden’s to start with girl. But she understood all about the Eves who arrived prior to her. She realized that the girl who claims I’m not like other girls is herself a cliché: “the community belle is all I’ll ever be,” she realizes right after determining the style in a insignificant character in a film but she also insists she’s the only a person who remembered that slight character, overshadowed for everyday viewers by the starlet. She knew that worrying about lacking a grandiose carnival in the sky was just as generic as remaining content by everyday sunsets, which might be why she announces, at the conclusion of “Sirocco,” “I don’t even treatment if there’s some grandiose carnival in the sky I could be lacking.” She was the stacked 18-year-old blonde who wrote to Joseph Heller, “I am a stacked 18-calendar year-previous blonde on Sunset Boulevard. I am also a author,” and she was also a author. She experienced Emma Bovary’s aptitude for ridiculously extraordinary flights of (white, bourgeois) femininity but in its place of obtaining married she commenced crafting for Rolling Stone. Like Emma Bovary, she desired to know what the words bliss, enthusiasm, and ecstasy, which had appeared so attractive in guides, intended in genuine lifetime, but unlike Emma Bovary, she’s the one particular who wrote the books. Yet another commonplace line in essays about Eve Babitz: “In every single younger man’s everyday living, there is an Eve Babitz,” reported the report firm executive Earl McGrath. “It’s generally Eve Babitz.” She was an case in point of a type so fantastic she was synonymous with the type alone, both the dancer and the dance. “Eve Babitz,” she might have mentioned, “c’est moi.”

Did Babitz live in a simulacrum, a city that is as a lot of a fantasy as Madame Bovary’s romance novels? Was Eve’s Hollywood Eve’s Hollywood? Did she create autofiction? (“Everything I wrote was memoir or essay or whichever you want to contact it,” she told her biographer.) Her creating was about Los Angeles, but also about everything. Her essays meander like dialogue, like drifting throughout lanes on the freeway, then transforming back again again on second thought, sentences falling into position like imprecise driving instructions. (She herself abhorred the freeway, “the hassle-free freeway” that left you “emptyhearted”: “It’s for if you do not want to know about just about anything, you just want to get there,” the fast lane to loss of life.) She marveled at the continuous sensation of compression in New York: “there are no spaces in between the text,” “like a tunnel where there’s no sky.” Not like Los Angeles, which, she wrote in an entirely unrelated piece, is “laid out like lace.” Her Los Angeles essays are entire of areas. Shorter paragraphs cling aimlessly. Phrases repeat on a lazy loop, like they’re hunting for parking. The phrase “horrible” can surface two times in the similar sentence, as if there is no point in trying to get out a better phrase when every thing is so awful. In an essay that commences with her father telling her as a 12-calendar year-aged girl on getaway in Mexico that she could not have a leopard pores and skin with a bullet gap in its head, for the reason that “you can’t have every thing,” it usually takes a couple paragraphs to retroactively refute the paternal proclamation with the illustration of Hollywood — “Hollywood in which every person understood you could have every little thing.” “Women are not prepared to have ‘everything,’” she wrote, reflecting on the death by overdose of Janis Joplin, “not when the ‘everything’ is not about dwelling fortunately at any time soon after with the prince (wherever even if it falls through and the prince operates absent with the child-sitter, there’s at the very least a precedent).” Every person desires a precedent, even when they will not acknowledge it, even when it is an normal sunset. Somewhere else, she wrote, “What I wanted, although at the time I didn’t recognize what the matter was simply because no a person ever tells you anything until you already know it, was almost everything.” She also wrote, “I just wished to be a girl.”

Babitz’s impatience with the feminine fantasies of her peers, those interchangeable ingenues, wasn’t born of the truth that she was unique, but of the point that she knew that, preserve for this self-knowledge, she was the exact. She trains our gaze on her teenage overall body on the beach in a leopard-skin one-piece so that we know that she is familiar with she could have been like any other warm woman if she desired to. “To see me in this fit, in truth, with my extended blond hair just about to my midsection and breasts so magnificent that to this working day I have in no way gotten a targeted traffic ticket” was to know that the only purpose she was shunned by the well-liked girls of Hollywood High “must have been a little something seriously demented in my attitude.” To want every little thing and to just want to be a lady, to want like Emma Bovary to die and to stay in Paris, to despair when your married lover says he’s likely to Brazil and will be again in a pair months (“‘Months!’ I moaned. We could all be useless by then”) — these are extreme illustrations of the style of female grievance. Babitz’s producing is lots of things, but it’s also just one thing: the document of what Lauren Berlant identified as, in The Feminine Grievance, “the constantly emplotted wish of a intricate individual to rework the details of her heritage to come to be a vague or less difficult model of herself, commonly in the vicinity of a like plot.” “Women are geared up to experience for love it is prepared into their beginning certificates,” Babitz wrote, at as soon as naturalizing gender and exposing it as a script, a single that may be rewritten. She wasn’t like other women she was diagnosing them. But just because she understood what she was accomplishing does not imply she did not want to shed herself in what Berlant known as “the travel to turn out to be unhistorical, to turn out to be general through repetition into conference,” to be the best epitome of the stacked 18-12 months-previous blonde on Sunset Boulevard (but also the great epitome of a writer), to be the Eve Babitz in each and every younger man’s life and also be Eve Babitz. A good deal of L.A. women of all ages have encouraged songs, but only a person was so singularly generic as to encourage the Doors’ “L.A. Woman.” (Her novel L.A. Lady is about a Jim Morrison groupie, Sophie, who is just another Eve.)

Berlant, who also died final year, after stated their mother “died of femininity”: of waistline-friendly cigarettes, of stilettos, of backbreaking armfuls of designer apparel she hauled as a shopgirl for other women to test on. Driving property as a result of Pasadena in 1997 Babitz lit a cigar (“a Demi Moore variety of thing”), dropped the match into her lap, and set her gauzy skirt on hearth a tight-fitting wraparound, it proved not possible to get rid of and fused to her pores and skin, which generally fell off. She survived, but she stopped partying and publishing. It reminds me of how Medea, the sorceress of ancient myth spurned by her husband, sends his beautiful new bride a gorgeous golden costume that’s poisoned the other girl puts it on and dies, collapsed in a puddle of her melted skin. It also reminds me of a poem referred to as “Love” by Lola Haskins, born the very same year as Babitz: “She attempts it on, like a dress. / She decides it doesn’t in shape, / and commences to just take it off. / Her skin arrives, much too.” There’s far more than a single way to die of femininity, but often we’re invited to enjoy a edition of this same scene: the eternally ephemeral female, at it yet again. “Here’s what you would have witnessed,” begins Babitz’s 2019 essay, her 1st publication right after the incident, recounting the practical experience and her months-long restoration. “A ’68 VW Bug comes to a prevent, a lady flies out, skirt aflame.” A number of sentences afterwards: “That woman was me.” It is as if she’s observing with us, indulging for a second the plan that this woman could be any female. It’s not it is Eve and no 1 else. Still this Eve was herself an iteration. This wasn’t the very first time she ashamed herself bare in Pasadena, she reminds us: she had posed nude throughout the chessboard from Duchamp at the Pasadena Art Museum for that popular image, that icon, that cliché.


Katie Kadue was born and lifted in Los Angeles.

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