Black Swans by Eve Babitz – review

Published by Counterpoint LLC

Publication date – 10 April 2018

Source – review copy


The Eve Babitz phenomenon continues with this special reissue of her 1993 story collection in a beautiful new edition

A new reissue by the writer who has been acclaimed by the Boston Globe as a “true original” and by the San Francisco Chronicle as “marvelously witty and wildly observant” and of whom Joseph Heller has said, “Her words are worth one hundred moving pictures.”

Black Swans is a collection of nine stories that look back on the 1980s—a decade of dreams, drink, and stoned youth turning Republican. Babitz prowls California telling tales of a changing world. She writes about the Rodeo Gardens, about AIDS, about learning to tango, about the cemetery of Hollywood, the self-enchanted city, and, most importantly, about the envy and jealousy underneath it all.

Babitz’s inimitable voice propels these stories forward, corralling everything that gets in their way: sex, rage, the Chateau Marmont, youth, beauty, Jim Morrison, men, women, and black swans.

This exciting reissue further celebrates the phenomenon of Eve Babitz, cementing her reputation as the voice of a generation.

Black Swans is a collection of nine stories featuring a fictionalised Eve Babitz, examining life in LA in the 1980s and 1990s. Candid, moving and often holding no punches, these are varied tales told by a unique voice. The stories strip back the glamour of a city built on shimmering dreams. They examine the real life behind the facade of the Hollywood sign and of the joy and heartbreak the sequins and lights can hide.

There is a decedance and a freedom that weaves throughout the stories, with tales of hunkering down in the Chateau Marmont for days with a new lover, unaware that LA was burning around them as the riots took hold. There is the story of falling in love with tango, the emotions brought forth as a result of seeing the dance, and then dancing herself. There are moment of introspection, of taking stock of achievements and those things that may have been lost. There is a sense of freedom, of recklessness and of realisation throughout the stories. The fictional Eve looks back on her actions, of the drug use, of getting clean, of sexual freedom and past relationships, assessing where she is at certain points in her life. There are tinges of sadness throughout the stories, of introspection but also hints of realisation, of moments to be proud of and people she is thankful were in her life, however briefly.

The stories in Black Swans are told in a fictionalised auto-biographical style. This works well, engaging the reader on a more intimate level, each story increasing the interest, so much so that I found myself researching Eve Babitz once I had finished the book. She has had a fascinating life so far, living in LA through some interesting times and her life story would no doubt be one deemed too extravagent to be real. Her life has been a rollercoaster. She posed naked in her early 20s as a way to get back at her married lover. She had relationships with Steve Martin, Harrison Ford and Jim Morrison. Her illustrations have graced the covers of albums for the Byrds and Linda Ronstadt and she has written many pieces of fiction and non fiction, including pieces in Esquire.

An intriuging, entertaining collection where the lines of fact and fiction are blurred.

About the author

EVE BABITZ is the author of several books of fiction, including Sex and Rage, Eve’s Hollywood, and Slow Days, Fast Company. Her nonfiction works include Fiorucci, The Book and Two by Two. She has written for publications including Ms. and Esquire, and in the late 1960s designed album covers for the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and Linda Ronstadt.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. I read Eve’s Hollywood a little while back and enjoyed it very much. Interesting that her work is being revived. I wonder what’s triggered that.


    1. janetemson says:

      I’m not sure. I wasn’t familiar with her work before but I got wrapped up in a Twitter conversation about her and when I was offered a copy of the book, all the way from the US I thought it was a perfect time to read something by her.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.