Slow Days, Fast Company by Eve Babitz

published 1977

[excerpts from throughout the book]

What shall I wear? I had gone one time into the square enclaves of Orange County with a friend of mine to his high school class’s tenth reunion and I’d worn a violent red dress with a red hat and red shoes because he’d wanted to show all of them that he’d moved out of their understanding and into some flashy movie-land (which he had). But the fury in the eyes of the women prevented me from ever doing that again....

“Do you think these shoes are too purple?” I asked. “Too
purple?” he said, looking down at my feet. “If they’re not too purple, they’re not purple enough.”...

She was dressed in flowing, translucent lilac cotton with peach slippers; everything floated when she moved. She smelled like lilacs. She had lilac mascara around her eyes and lilac eye shadow that faded into her temples. Her lips were peach. Altogether she looked like a sunrise in paradise.

She handed me a Finnish cotton kaftan… Mary and Gabrielle both wore kaftans too. Gabrielle’s was wrinkled and had had red wine or blood spilled down the side and Mary’s was perfect, freshly laundered and light.

comments: I loved a book I read, and posted on, recently: Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker. I said it was ‘like a cross between Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion.’

In the comments, Dame Eleanor Hull said it reminded her of Eve Babitz – someone I had never heard of.

Well – was I in for a treat, though I still can’t believe that I have never consciously come across Eve Babitz before. She is a fascinating character: most descriptions of her start with some variation of ‘Eve Babitz first gained notoriety by playing chess in the nude with Marcel Duchamp’ – you can see the picture and the story here. She was the Hollywood It Girl, a golden child. But she is also a wonderful writer. This book is a collection of pieces – a mixture of fact and fiction, sometimes within the same piece. (For example, fake names are used for some characters who have later been identified by readers and researchers.)

She is moving around California – San Fransisco, LA and Bakersfield. She has a tremendous sense of place, does a fantastic job of persuading you that this IS what a place is like. And she does great clothes. My ideal writer.

There are unexpected moments – this about unions
If I were a unionized farm laborer and paying dues, I’d like to know that my leader was every bit as scary as the boss and not some vulnerable saint.
About women:
Deep down inside every woman is a waitress. The act of waitressing is a solace, it’s got everything you could ask for—confusion, panic, humility, and food.
And dieting:
if I did all of that—why then, there I’d be in a room and you wouldn’t be able to tell me apart from all the other women who were clawing with their fingernails to maintain the same size. It’s a horrible paradox.
This about dancing:
Women who dance with their eyes closed, smiling, are as near to heaven as you can get on earth, and there I was, in heaven, only in Bakersfield.
I could just quote from her all day.
Women want to be loved like roses. They spend hours perfecting their eyebrows and toes and inventing irresistible curls that fall by accident down the back of their necks from otherwise austere hair-dos. They want their lover to remember the way they held a glass. They want to haunt. Men don’t work like that as far as I’ve been able to judge. Men aren’t haunted by the way a woman holds a glass. Men are haunted by women who’re just like the one who married dear old dad.
I think of Easter Eggs as hidden motifs in electronic and digital media, so was surprised to find this in her opening remarks, as she explains that she is trying to make the book attractive to her lover:
I’m going to riddle this book with Easter Egg italics
…and while it’s obvious that the idea is as old as time, apparently the name is older than I thought.

She is the only person who has ever made a baseball game sound interesting to me, such a lovely description:
A great deadpan man climbed up and down the aisles catching quarters brilliantly and throwing ice-cream sandwiches back with amazing grace, while below us incredibly agile men caught high.
And she attends the game with a film actor – who could it be? (I’m guessing Harrison Ford.)

She has such interesting things to say about everything, she is honest and real and you would worry about her quite a lot if she were your friend. Her story is on Wikipedia and elsewhere online. Highly recommended.

Red dress and hat, from Kristine.

Kaftan lady from Kristine’s photostream.

Other pictures from fashion ads and magazines of the era (just a reminder that she makes the clothes of the time sound a lot nicer than they actually were) apart from the purple shoes, which are current.


  1. It sounds as though there are some really interesting insights here, Moira. She seems to have both an 'insider's view,' and the skill of writing about it (not always easy to find in the same person). And those clothes descriptions! And the Orange County scene took place probably less than an hour from where I live in San Diego County, so it felt close to home, if that makes sense.

    1. Oh that must have made you feel at home Margot! Though I guess your wild youth was in a different part of the US? (and maybe not quite so wild!) Such a pleasure to find a new writer I like so much, and there are a few more works by her to find.

  2. I am so glad you enjoyed the book! It's a favorite comfort read of mine, though my copy is packed at the moment. I had forgotten the red dress till you quoted it, but the lilac eye shadow and caftans stuck with me. Reading that book always makes me feel I'm back in the Central Valley on a hot afternoon.

    1. I loved it (as you must be able to tell) and am so grateful. Looking forward to reading more by her. She really created the place she was in..

  3. I agree that the writing is wonderful. Eve Babitz is also new to me, and since I was in Southern California (well, Riverside) in the 1970s you would think I might have heard of her.

    1. Look out for her books! As I say to Margot above, I wonder will it remind you of your own youth (insert smiley emoji!)

  4. I read this book fairly recently and loved it too. The quote about the shoes not being purple enough made me laugh as I was reading it! Babitz has such an effortlessly cool style - and, as you say, she is eminently quotable. I would also highly recommend another of her books, Eve's Hollywood, which Babitz describes as a confessional novel, even though it reads like a memoir.

    1. Thanks Jacqui, great to hear from someone else who has read her, and thanks for the recommendation. I just looked it up, and it sounds a lot like this one - which is definitely a good thing in my view! I have ordered it.


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