“‘My wife, Shirley, and I have thought it over and we’ve decided to retire from success and try failure for a few years. We feel the variety will enlarge us.’ I know L.A. is the only place on earth where people do that.”
Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A. by Eve Babitz
Published by New York Review Books, Classics, 1974
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: Although I enjoyed this one I don’t think I’ll be coming back to it.
Reviewed by Indiana
Spoiler free review
This was in some ways a typical Eve Babitz book: it’s seemingly fun and simple, then she hits you with these amazing one-liners that are as true today as they were the moment she wrote them.
Slow Days, Fast Company reads more like a series of short essays or sketches of Babitz’s romantic encounters and life in the 60s and 70s. She was known for being one of the most sought after women in California, yet, there was one man who didn’t seem to be enamored with her. Of course, that was the man she wanted most. So she wrote him a book, which eventually turned into Slow Days, Fast Company.
The sketches are not rambling (it is a fairly short book and there are only ten of them), but there’s not a central focus other than Babitz living amidst people who are as extreme if not more extreme than she is herself. In one, she visits a fan of her writing who runs a grape farm out in Central Valley. In another, she’s talking with movie stars who are afraid of their own scripts. In another she finds solace from her wilting romance in Virginia Woolf’s writing.
For me, the context of the sketches aren’t nearly as interesting as the way Babitz paints the world. I don’t just mean the physical setting, I mean her entire worldview is laid out on each and every page with a level of confident certainty that I admire.
Even though she can be scattered and sometimes you can hear her doubt herself, even her doubt feels like confidence (which I realize doesn’t make as much sense as I’d like it to). Take for instance:
“No one likes to be confronted with a bunch of disparate details that God only knows what they mean. I can’t get a thread to go through to the end and make a straightforward novel. I can’t keep everything in my lap, or stop rising flurries of sudden blind meaning.”
Keep in mind, when she wrote this she had already “made it” as a writer. She had already published articles and books.
She goes on to add: “But perhaps if the details are all put together, a certain pulse and sense of place will emerge, and the integrity of empty space with occasional figures in the landscape can be understood at leisure and in full, no matter how fast the company.”
The sketches did ramble a bit toward the end, but I enjoyed her writing the entire time. It transported me to another place and it felt like an eccentric friend was telling me these vignettes over a glass of wine.