Sex and Rage: A Novel – Eve Babitz

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Years and years and years were pocked with holes of things Jacaranda simple didn’t remember, with people Jacaranda didn’t remember meeting, conversations she didn’t remember having, promises and parties and great ideas and projects Jacaranda didn’t remember hurling into….she accidentally found herself in the approximately right spot and the approximately right time, and people mistakenly assumed she was reliable…”

Jacaranda grew up in Santa Monica near the ocean and loved to surf. This original surfer girl–tan and blonde —painted surfboards for a living. However, life brought new acquaintances and from the age of twenty-three to twenty-eight she found herself addicted to the eccentric Hollywood crowd with heavy partying, drugs and drinking. The years were like “tilted jello salad. They shimmered if you prodded them.”

During her lucid moments, she realized that she had a talent for writing magazine articles. However, her Hollywood friends and acquaintances advised her, “Don’t write, darling. It’s not nice.” She continued to write though, and was discovered by a New York agent. When she reluctantly flew to New York—sober—her identity and self-destructive behavior was challenged.

What I particularly relished about Sex and Rage were the multitude of eccentric characters and their relationship to Jacaranda, superficial as they were. That’s why I think this novel will have broad appeal; it’s entertaining. Personally though, it did remind me that there is nothing to miss about 1970’s Los Angeles. I also loved the New York versus Los Angeles culture comparisons.

Originally published in 1979 and recently re-released by Counterpoint Press, this coming-of-age story captures the hip LA lifestyle of the late 1960’s and ‘70s. Like in her memoir, Slow Days, Fast Company, author Eve Babitz has an unsentimental approach to her Hollywood story. However, she doesn’t go into the toxicity of the California surf culture. Then again, I don’t remember girls surfing back then; Gidget was an anomaly.

Those who loved Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A. are sure to  enjoy Sex and Rage.

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