Painting © Maria Przyszychowska from a Photograph by Julian Wasser

IN EVE BABITZ’S THIRD BOOK, Sex and Rage, the main character Jacaranda Leven comes upon a black-and-white photograph hanging in a grand Hollywood penthouse apartment, next to “a David Hockney swimming pool, and a huge pornographic watercolor by John Altoon.” Shot by Julian Wasser in 1963, the image shows Marcel Duchamp playing chess in an art gallery with a voluptuous naked woman whose face is obscured by a curtain of dark hair. “The contrast between Duchamp’s dried-out ancient little person and the large young girl’s Rubenesque flesh,” Babitz writes, “was not (unlike chess) at all subtle.” Leven, an aspiring writer who, like all of Babitz’s protagonists, is an obvious stand-in for the author, can’t believe her host owns a print of this legendary photograph, while her host can’t believe this surfer girl in thrift-store Dior has even seen it before. “She’d have to be an idiot,” Jacaranda comments to the reader, “to spend all her time around artists and not know this photograph.”