Black Swans

Eve Babitz, Author Alfred A. Knopf $22 (211p) ISBN 978-0-679-40518-4

The subject of these nine stories by Babitz ( Sex and Rage ) is Hollywood: brilliant and beautiful couples who somehow get along; charming yet moody men and their odd needs; and ``Eve,'' the narrator, who cautiously reveals in herself the vices of a naughty but not really bad girl--impulsiveness, casual sex, former drug use, vanity, an obsession with vegetarianism and aging (she's approaching 50), and a preference for cats over children. She's warm and ingratiating, and bent on reaping admiration for her good taste and her sex appeal. But her signature style is the gushing faucet: ``I never wondered if I was a lesbian because usually I only had sex with men and only slept with Vicky because she was so beautiful, and in those days anyone beautiful who pushed me backwards onto a bed, got my full attention.'' Too bad. It's a deep reach to get much more than droll entertainment from these stories. Since values, for Babitz, are seemingly no more than attitudes, she has no basis (and evidently no stomach) for even the gentlest satire, contenting herself instead mostly with flakiness and fun, despite her attempts to confront AIDS in one story (``Free Tibet'') and the L.A. riots in another (``Weird August''). (Sept.)