Archive | Feminist Matters

The Fast Company of Eve Babitz

There were many West Coast It Girls of the 60s and 70s, but Eve Babitz may have been the West Coast It Girl, at least among people in the know. Born in 1943 to a Jewish studio violinist and a gentile Texan rose, she counted Igor Stravinsky as her godfather and Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, and Bertrand Russell among her family friends. In the 1960s, she became a “groupie-adventuress” who designed album covers for Linda Ronstadt and Buffalo Springfield, and counted everyone from Frank Zappa to Salvador Dali among her friends, and Steve Martin, Jim Morrison, Harrison Ford, and both Ruscha brothers (photographer Paul and painter Ed) among her lovers. She also was the nude girl in the famous photograph of Marcel DuChamp playing chess.

But none of these biographical details are as compelling as Eve’s prose. In essay collections and autobiographical novels, she rhapsodized about booze, beauty, jacarandas, and, above all else, her native stomping grounds of Southern California. Whether describing a stunning angle of sunlight, the many sorts of SoCal winds, or a perfect crate of Chavez-approved grapes, she wrote with such extravagant style that you found yourself falling in love with Los Angeles even if you’d always considered it a cultural wasteland. Continue Reading →

‘Radical Hope’ with Carolina de Robertis (Q&A)

An award-winning novelist and literary translator, Carolina de Robertis has donned a new hat for her latest literary effort, that of anthology editor. In the wake of the November 2016 U.S. presidential election, she put out a call for politically inflected love letters in the tradition of James Baldwin’s 1963 The Fire Next Time essay, “My Dungeon Shook: A Letter to My Nephew.” The result is Radical Hope, a series of epistolary essays that are bound to shore progressives in the months and years to come. We discussed this remarkable collection with de Robertis, who lives in San Francisco with her wife and children.

LISA ROSMAN: Let’s start with nuts and bolts. Is this book merely a response to the election of Donald Trump?

CAROLINA DE ROBERTIS: It’s not just about the election of Trump because I think it’s important to extend our gaze to something larger and deeper in our country, though he as an individual is certainly his own kettle of dangerous fish.

The idea came to me three days after the election. I was sitting at my writing desk unable to work on my own novel, and I was thinking about how writers might be able to respond and contribute to the dissent and resistance that was going to be necessary in the coming social and political climate. I have a big photograph of Baldwin hanging over my writing desk and I couldn’t stop thinking about that essay in which he addresses his nephew. It seemed to me that his form of letter-essay was particularly helpful for blending personal reflections with sweeping political analysis, a blend we very much need in these times. Continue Reading →

Excavating Bella Abzug (and Other Leo Moons)

So you know how you fall into video clip scavenger hunts when you should be doing something else? I was really affected by the death of soulful, rumpled John Heard, whom I loved in Out On A Limb, the crazy and I mean crazy TV miniseries he made with Shirley Maclaine based on her memoir about transchanneling, reincarnation, extraterrestrials and best friend Bella Abzug. So I watched the whole series, which was even better than I remembered, and it led me to watching the feminist state rep’s entire 1998 memorial service, at which such lady luminaries as Shirley, Jane Fonda (pictured in one of Bella’s more conservative hats), Fay Wattleton, and all of Bella’s activist besties from 1930s Hunter College spoke. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy