ÊI am, let it be said, an Eve Babitz devotee. Hooked ever since reading Slow Days, Fast Company many moons ago, I have read every article, book, and snippet I could find in the intervening years. Since the death of L.
A. Times columnist and author Jack Smith, Babitz has become the preeminent voice of Los Angeles, the person to whom transplanted Angelenos look for news of home.
In Two by Two, Babitz chronicles the dance crazes sweeping Los Angeles, and its practitioners and devotees. (Did you know, for instance, that Sandra Bullock is a salsa queen, or that Robert Duvall is a tango champion?) Each chapter is devoted to a small slice of the dance scene. In one chapter, Paul McClure, a soft-spoken cowboy who teaches the two-step to urbanites who grew up with disco, advises If you don't know the step, just ignore those who do; you're more creative anyway . . . Of the infighting among the L.
A. tango fanatics, Babitz observes, If someone starts any event in tango on a Tuesday, someone else will open a competing event just on that day, as though there were nine million tango maniacs in L.
A. rather than just forty-seven. And in yet another chapter, Babitz writes about the easy-going Cajun dances, . . . Being half Cajun myself, I am partial to these wild bands and the night and this particularly crazy music. It's all just hot sauce to me, and I was raised on Tabasco and gumbo by my mother at a time in America when onions and garlic were considered a shock. Two by Two delineates the differences between East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing, rejoices in the freedom of the salsa and the Cajun dances, and marvels at the beauty of ballroom dancing from the perspective of a lifelong devotee, at home on the dance floor but clearly not in the first echelon of skill level.
Although Two by Two is more focused than Babitz's typical L.
A. ramblings, it remains a loving, amusing look at the world of dancing, with the heavy overlay of L.
A.-ness that will keep the Angeleno expat longing for home. Bruce Tierney is a reviewer in Nashville, Tennessee.