Sex and Rage

Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz
245 pages
Published by: Counterpoint, 1979
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: This book is more about the experience of reading it then about the plot so I could certainly read it again.

Reviewed by Indiana

Reading this novel is a wandering experience. Babitz takes you into a hazy world of glamor, surfing, art, and drugs in the 1960 and 1970s. It feels like you’re immediately immersed into this old-time movie that’s sure to deliver a great and classic story.

Jacaranda, the protagonist, grew up on the coast of California and spent most of her time surfing. After high school, she falls into the rock n’ roll crowd for a bit, partying every night with people she barely knows. After a few years, she shakes them off and realizes she’s never really liked rock n’ roll to begin with and if she’s going to surf, she has to get up at 7 a.m. sharp.

This whimsical and whip smart character just seems to fall into these strange situations and toxic groups of people throughout the book. Eventually, she begins to struggle with alcoholism and can feel her life slipping away.

Then Janet Wilton, a literary agent from New York City discovers her and asks to represent her. It changes everything for Jacaranda and she’s swept up into finding another path, this one laced with zero alcohol or drugs, but just as many adventures and quirky situations.

There were so many lines that I wanted to highlight or descriptions that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I read. Babitz has a wandering style of writing, but if you hold on, she’ll deliver entertaining scene after entertaining scene.

Plus, she often voices small emotional battles that I’ve never paid much attention to.  There’s one scene where Jacaranda is meeting with her editor for the first time and she’s imagining what he’s thinking about and imaging details of his life based on his office decor. He says something snide before she can really say very much:  

“She would have hated him for saying something charming and something mean like that while she wa bleeding illusions all over the wall-to-wall cream carpet. . . . Only not just yet. She didn’t know enough of herself to hate him properly; all she knew was that she would have hated him if she were truly there.”

I appreciated Babitz’s honest writing style and the way she could make you feel the same drunken happiness (and sometimes sadness) that Jacaranda was feeling. I don’t know that much about the author, but I plan on looking into some of her other works.

Can anyone recommend another one of hers?

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