One of my favourite culture critics, Jia Tolentino, once described Babtiz as, “a perpetual motion machine of no stakes elation and champagne fizz.” So, to say that the name A Black Swan in Tangoland is inspired by two essays of Babtiz’s—'Black Swans’ and ‘Tangoland’—is just too prosaic. The name is really inspired by Babitz herself. Her acknowledgements. Her tone. Her sentences.

As a twenty-year-old, Babtiz posed nude playing chess with Marcel Duchamp—which she later chronicled in an essay called ‘I Was a Naked Pawn for Art’. She painted the album art for Linda Rondstat, Buffalo Springfield, and almost Janis Joplin. She is Stravinsky's goddaughter! In 1997 a cigarette ash fell on her stocking-ed legs covering half her body in third degree burns, and she famously started an essay years later with the sentence, "My friends would kill me if I died." Harrison Ford and Steve Martin—both former lovers—helped pay her medical bills. 

That's A Black Swan in Tangoland.

Babitz's writing is pure pleasure. Few things are as conspicuously absent in contemporary fiction as pleasure for pleasure’s sake. To steal from Tolentino again, “Gratification, when it comes, is surrounded by guilt and bitterness; consumption is anxious; sex mostly seems like a vehicle for some highly determined thematic point.” Not for Babitz. She often got dismissed in the 1970s—her most prolific writing period—as an 'It girl' of LA, writing lurid unserious stories. But just because a woman is writing about and through her own pleasures, doesn't mean she can't write an amazingly structured sentence. And she's not lurid—sensationalist, sure!—but not lurid. 

That's A Black Swan in Tangoland.

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