Eve's HollywoodTwo titles written a decade apart:  the first, in the early sixties, at the onset of the sexual revolution, which brought us increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships; and, the other, in the early seventies, during the post-pill and pre-AIDS period. These authors’ writings on the topic of sex in the single girl’s life, are also set apart.  There is a bit of a divide between the life of an “adventuress” artist having an amoral good time night after night, and “a settled in a relationship Cosmo girl,” who accepts that women need, or at least want men.

In 1962, at the age of 40, Helen Gurley Brown wrote her best-seller Sex and the Single Girl, which paved her way to her becoming the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine in 1965.  She went on to publish several other books which include Sex and the Office (1965), Helen Gurley Brown’s Single Girl’s Cookbook (1969), and Sex and the New Single Girl (1970).  Sex and the Single Girl was published in 28 countries, and stayed on the bestseller lists for over a year. The original title was Sex for the Single Girl, and included a section on contraceptive methods which was omitted from the final publication because “it sounded like [it] was advocating sex for all single girls. In 1964 the book inspired the film of the same name starring Natalie Wood. The theme of the book is well presented in the opening lines:

“I married for the first time at 37. I got the man I wanted. It could be construed as something of a miracle considering how old I was and how eligible he was…But I don’t think it’s a miracle that I married my husband. I think I deserved him! For 17 years I worked hard to become the kind of woman who might interest him.”

A shameless devotion to pleasure for pleasure’s sake was presented in 1974 by Eve Babitz at the age of 31, in her part biography, part cultural analysis and part memoir debut book, Eve’s Hollywood, featuring a striking portrait of Babitz in a feather boa, shot by Annie Leibovitz. The iconic L.A. writer and 1970s “It” girl, who  prior to the book  had designed album covers for Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds, was 20 years old when Brown’s  book got released, the age at which she posed naked for an iconic photo playing chess with artist Marcel Duchamp.  Eve’s Hollywood, transitions between Babitz’s adventures and fiction, with references to her various romantic associations with artists, musicians, writers, actors of the time and cultural scene of Los Angeles. The list of real life friends and lovers includes among others: Jim Morrison, Ed Ruscha, Paul Ruscha, Harrison Ford, Steve Martin and Walter Hopps. She took it all in and wrote about it in Eve’s Hollywood:

“Cupid let go with a spear dipped in purple prose, not just an arrow, and then he drew another one, so there were two, one conventionally through my heart and the other through my head. They were both about 8 feet long and two inches thick. They were crude.”

The social significance of both of these books is quite obvious.  Even though they are half of a generation apart, they have reached a level of importance in literature by having helped young women redefine their roles in our society. Unlike Sex and the Single Girl’s immediate success, Eve’s Hollywood did not receive much attention until it was recently re-released by Edwin Frank’s imprint NYRB Classics. In fact, New York Review Books Classics has reissued the first two of Babitz’s nonfiction books — Eve’s Hollywood, and the essay collection, Slow Days, Fast Company. Young fans have also discovered her heady chronicles of the LA party scene of the 70s and 80s in Black Swans and her third title published in 1979 Sex and Rage.

The first editions, first printings of these books are very scarce. Signed editions are quite extinct. Sex and the Single Girl was advertised through a large-scale campaign created by Letty Cottin Pogrebin of the book’s publisher, Bernard Geis Associates, and the author’s husband David Brown. Even though this marketing campaign included bookstore appearances and signings, signed first printings are quite scarce. Brown passed away in 2012.

Lacking a big promotional campaign, Eve’s Hollywood did not get much attention initially. Babitz has stopped writing after suffering severe burns in a freak accident in 1997.  Her agent, Erica Spellman Silverman and her younger sister, Mirandi, are working hard to elevate her ranking and preserve her legacy. She is now unwilling to appear in public events, but she is sure to present her exuberant self among the pages of rare first edition.

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Fast Forward 50 Years

by The bookworm on December 31, 2018

Philip Dock's UbikAnother year is upon us with the usual hoopla about the abnormalities of current times. As 2019 makes its debut, many of the values and beliefs we hold dear are being questioned throughout the world. Truthful facts, science, humanity, diversity and equality are a few on the top of the list. In the US, denying climate science or hating on immigrants, threaten to change what was once viewed as the land of opportunity to people from all corners of the globe.

A mere 50 years, ago American Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon, the first Concorde test flight was conducted in France, and  the American Boeing 747 jumbo jet was introduced. The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, the epitome of the American muscle car, reigned the freeways, while Woodstock attracted more than 350,000 rock-n-roll fans for what became the most important concert in the history of music. It was during that same “Summer of Love’, 1969, that members of a cult led by Charles Manson murdered five people at the Benedict Canyon Estate of Roman Polanski.

The year 1969, is also the year that science fiction fans first immersed themselves into the mesmerizing, unexplainable, drugged-up delusion, that Philip K. Dick titled “Ubik”. The author’s description of the book’s theme is as enigmatic and broad as the untamed limits of the human imagination:

“Salvific information penetrating through the ‘walls’ of our world by an entity with personality representing a life – and reality supporting quasi-living force.”

Ubik, juggles notions of reality and expands the limits of imagination, morality and immortality, divine intervention and structural integrity, with consummate skill. It is all about the realization that things are not as they seem – that everything you thought you knew, is wrong. In Ubik, there is not really a wrong that can be counterbalanced by an equal and opposite right: the author substitutes the duality between right and wrong altogether with a single structure that is, for lack of a better word, fuzzy.

While the novel blends a vast spectrum of science fiction concepts, an assessment of the futurological accuracy against present-day reality, is interesting to contemplate. Some of the details in the novel, such as protagonist, Joe Chip, using a machine with which he can “set the dial for low gossip,” resembles our present Social Media concerns and Facebook’s troubles with privacy. Who wouldn’t also think of the internet when reading how easily  technology can track Joe Chip and how much it knows about his personal habits? And how weird is the tenant in the apartment who is forced into an argument with the refrigerator doors?  Alexa, close the refrigerator door and keep temperature at 10ºF. Hmmm.

Apparently, however, the pharmaceutical industry has some catching up to do. Ubik, the substance that, true to its derivation from the Latin “ubique”, is found everywhere in the book, is yet to be produced in our day, in a biotech lab. Ubik appears most often in the form of an aerosol spray; it seems to counter time-regression and save the lives of those to whom it is applied. It could be taken as a divine symbol. It could be more straightforward, since the spray can is after all a phallic symbol, or, some kind of anti-psychedelic: just the thing that will bring Joe back to sobriety and reality. At least the “thing”, that will bring partiers back to sobriety and provide hangover relief this January 1st, 2019, is available at the local drugstore, in liquid or solid form, and may even be delivered through a high pressure propellant as a spray. Philip K. Dick’s use of aerosol spray prophetically disqualified the misconception that aerosol cans damage the Earth’s ozone layer long before the use of chlorofluorocarbons was banned as an ozone damaging substance. Happy New Year, sci-fi buffs.

 

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The Importance of Language in Rare Books

October 13, 2018
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How fortunate native English-speaking booksellers are to have English as their mother tongue! English is the lingua franca of global business. Not surprisingly, the official language of ILAB, (The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers), is English. However, the organization maintains that this stature is shared equally with French; hence the old ILAB motto “Amor librorum […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – Auctions

August 21, 2018
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When an auction generates astonishing excitement in view of both the quality and quantity of books being offered, the excitement is also reflected in the prices realized. Even if the prices are often unrealistic, for many buyers, the auction remains a remarkable event that is worth the extra expense. High emotions are exactly the ingredients […]

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The Seven Pillars of a Rare Book: The case of John William’s “Stoner”

July 1, 2018
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Factor #1: Scarcity in supply. The year was 1965; the war in Vietnam was escalating, the space race was in full swing, and the Rolling Stones were on a world tour. America’s counter-culture movements were embracing drug use, liberal sexuality and obscenity in their writings and works. It was during this year that a novelist […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – Modern Firsts

May 16, 2018
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  In 1977-78 Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc., held 3 auction events with the titles Important Modern First Editions and Fine Modern First Editions.  They included the rare book collection of Jonathan Goodwin, one of the greatest collectors of the 20th century. The 865 lot sale was broken in Part One Sale, (March 29, 1977), Part […]

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Desperately Seeking Members of the Prestigious Collins Crime Club

April 5, 2018
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During the golden age of detective fiction, when classic murder mystery novels were at the peak of popularity, Sir Godfrey Collins, started the Collins Crime Club (1930–94), as an imprint of British book publishers William Collins & Sons.  Until then, the Scottish printing and publishing company found success as a printer of Bibles and other […]

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Provenance through Bookplates or Book Labels

February 27, 2018
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Bookplates or Book Labels1 are nearly as old as printed books themselves. Going as far back as 500 years ago, bookplates, tell us interesting stories that provenance marks in historical books about books and their owners.  The earliest known examples of printed bookplates are German, and date from the 15th century.  Hand-colored woodcuts, pasted into […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 4th Quarter, 2017

January 31, 2018
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Historically, the 4th quarter of the year is undoubtedly the strongest in sales of rare books. 2017 was no exception. We have come to realize through the years, that there are some aspects of the rare book trade that have been unlikely to drastically change. Thank human nature for that! On average, the October-December period has treated book […]

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Apollinaire’s Poetry is Art

January 5, 2018
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November 2018, will mark the Centennial Anniversary of the end of the Great War. In April, 1918, French poet, writer, critic and theoretician of art, Guillaume Apollinaire, published his work subtitled “Poems of Peace and War 1913-1916” under the title Calligrammes. This collection of poems is very special and unique for a number of reasons: […]

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