Babitz (Sex and Rage, 1979; L.A. Woman, 1982, etc.) is an acquired taste: her slewing style, bad-girl postures, and sad-funny takes on hedonism can be deliciously shocking but don't always blend-up right. Here, though, as the narrator of these nine story/essays, approaches middle-age—after all the drugs, booze, groupie sex, and wild passionate flings—the sense of brakes applied (by 12-step-programs and simple aging) turns Babitz's voice sage as well as outrageous. A number of the pieces revolve around the L.A.-based narrator's weakness for visiting male New York writers; in the best of these, the title one, an effervescent affair is ruined when the narrator dares get something she wrote published for the first time (``Normal men aren't going to love anyone who looks forward to anything but them''). Yet as dispensed as Babitz's people try to be, they never are far from their fears and insecurities—and her wisecracking, ain't-it-the-truth-honey voice is just about perfect in illuminating the fact. Equally good, if somewhat labored (Babitz's chief stylistic flaw is repetitiousness), is a pair of pieces about learning to tango, being swept up in the dance's ``fearless wrongness'': funny, philosophical (``Nobody `got on with their life' in Tango Argentina; they preferred suffering in hell for all eternity''), and with desperate polish. Babitz's best book yet.