L.A. WOMAN by Eve Babitz

L.A. WOMAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The good news is that Babitz (Slow Days. Fast Company) has broadened her claustrophobic focus a bit: it now includes some intriguing extended-family memories along with the usual, dank L.A. glitter. The bad news is that her persona--the strung-out, shtick-y Dirty Lady--has become stale and mannered, without enough appeal to hold this small, loose mosaic-novel together. The autobiographical alter-ego here is narrator Sophie Lubin, who--in roughly chronological snatches--takes us from her childhood up to about age 30 (1950-70). Daughter of Jewish studio-musician Mort and non-Jewish Eugenia--""one of the most gorgeous couples ever established here on earth even in Hollywood""--sophie grows up supposedly ""lucky"" but far from thrilled: she has no ambitions except learning ""how to go down on"" boyfriend Claude; she knows that her ""perfect saint"" of a mother can also ""whirl into foul words in Southern hisses . . . and knock me clear across a room""; she scorns the family's culture (unlike poor cousin Ophelia); at 18, with the folks in Paris, she takes off to Rome to become a starlet for two years; and, back in L.A., she briefly samples real-job life, then becomes rock-star Jim Morrison's live-in groupie (acid, flaming hair, trying to look and be ""woman enough""). . . and branches out into album-cover design. All this, unfortunately, is epically uninvolving, with Sophie's self-deprecating humor (a few fair laughs) failing to disguise an off-putting smugness. But Sophie interweaves her own thin story with glimpses of older, somewhat more engaging L.A. women: rich German-Jewish immigrant Lola, a free leftwing spirit who joins a modern dance troupe in 1929 (along with Sophie's Aunt Goldie), revels in heavy mascara, adores sexy, gray-eyed Sam, and remains low-down at 70; WASP-y Molly, another troupe-r, who's unhinged when her husband is blacklisted; chocolate-craving Aunt Helen, who winds up living on ""the fucking East Coast""; Sophie's mother, ""a girl in blue"" who left Texas ""simply to be around movies when Hollywood was Hollywood."" And while these vignettes don't really add up to an L.A.-Woman ethos that includes tacky Sophie, they do provide intermittent vivacity--for readers who can get past (or would enjoy) the ultra-hip, frizzed-out narration.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1982
Publisher: Linden/Simon & Schuster