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Ben Pleasants papers, 1959-2013
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Restrictions on Access
  • Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Preferred Citation
  • UCLA Catalog Record ID
  • Provenance/Source of Acquisition
  • Processing Information
  • Biography/History
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement

  • Title: Ben Pleasants papers
    Collection number: 2303
    Contributing Institution: UCLA Library Special Collections
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 4.0 linear ft. (4 boxes, 2 half-size boxes, 1 record carton, 5 shoeboxes)
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1970-1985
    Date (inclusive): 1959-2013
    Abstract: This collection documents the activities, writings, and political opinions of Ben Pleasants. Pleasants was a Los Angeles-based writer, as well as a close friend of both Charles Bukowski and Steve Richmond, seminal figures in the Los Angeles "Meat School." He published works on John Fante, Kenneth Rexroth, James Laughlin, Kate Braverman, Marge Piercy, Budd Schulberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and others. This collection spans from 1959 to 2013, and chronicles Pleasants' time in California as a poet, playwright, interviewer, and novelist.
    Language of Materials: Materials are in English.
    Physical Location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
    Creator: Pleasants, Ben, 1940-2013

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    COLLECTION CONTAINS AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS: Audiovisual materials in this collection will require assessment and possible digitization for safe access. To review these audiovisual materials, you must notify the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk in advance of your visit.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Ben Pleasants Papers (Collection 2303). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 7989838 

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift, 2016.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Melanie Jones in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT)  under the supervision of Courtney Dean, April 25, 2016.


    Ben Pleasants was a Los Angeles-based writer. He was born on August 6, 1940 in Long Island, New York, and graduated from Hofstra University in 1962 before moving to California with his first wife. He began graduate studies in English at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1964.
    While at UCLA, Pleasants became close friends with Steve Richmond and Charles Bukowski, seminal figures in the Los Angeles “Meat School” of poetry. Pleasants then joined the mimeograph revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. He was published in The Wormwood Review alongside contributors like Bertolt Brecht and Henry Miller, and was praised for his poetry collection, Airmail from Oblivion (1975).
    Pleasants began working at the Los Angeles Times in 1967. His reputation as a reviewer led to his work being published by the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, the Los Angeles Free Press, and other Southern California periodicals. From 1978 to 1983, he conducted a series of interviews with John Fante, later collected by Beat Scene and 3:AM Magazine. His lauding of Fante helped spur a resurgence in the author’s popularity, and cemented his semi-autobiographical novel Ask the Dust (1939) as a seminal work of Los Angeles literature.
    In 1984, Pleasants left the LA Times over his attempt to review The Fateful Triangle, Noam Chomsky’s book on US involvement in Middle East politics. Pleasants continued to write, publishing in periodicals such as the L.A. Free Press, L.A. Vanguard, L.A. Reader, Los Angeles Magazine, and Malibu Magazine. He also worked as a teacher for the Los Angeles United School District for thirty years.
    Pleasants was also a noted playwright. His plays include Winter in Mongolia (1975), The Hemingway/Dos Passos Wars (1998), and Contentious Minds: The Mary McCarthy/Lillian Hellman Affair (2001). Late in life, Pleasants also turned to novels, publishing the sexually explicit tragicomedy Spearmint Leaves (2010) and The Victory of Defeat (2011), a thinly disguised account of Bukowski’s activites during World War II.
    In 2004, Pleasants published the memoir Visceral Bukowski: A Walk Through the Sniper Landscape of American Letters. Although critically praised, the book became controversial due to Pleasants’ claims that Charles Bukowski harbored Nazi sympathies. Pleasants died of a heart attack on April 30, 2013 at age 72.

    Scope and Content

    This collection documents the writings, publishing attempts, and political opinions of Ben Pleasants, as well as his relationship with Steve Richmond and Charles Bukowski, seminal figures in the “Meat School” of the Los Angeles poetry scene.
    The collection spans from 1960 to 2010, with the bulk of materials coming from 1970 to 1985, and is organized by subject or name, having no original order. In addition to manuscripts and correspondence, the collection contains a large number of publications featuring Pleasants’ writing and interviews conducted by Pleasants.
    Some of the significant organizations and topics represented in these files are: Charles Bukowski and the Meat School, the broader Los Angeles literary and drama scene, mimeograph publishing, John Fante and the Hollywood Ten, Nazi sympathies in America, and Stalin’s atrocities as leader of the USSR. The collection documents Pleasants’ provocative nature, anarchist sympathies, dismissal of PC culture, and free speech advocacy.
    Materials are largely textual, comprising publications and personal and professional correspondence, as well as a large number of audio cassettes. Among other formats are photographs, CDs and DVDs.

    Organization and Arrangement

    This collection has been arranged in the following series:
    • Series 1: Manuscripts (1961-2012)
    • Series 2: Interviews (1975-2013)
    • Series 3: Publications and Promotional Materials (1966-2013)
    • Series 4: Correspondence (1959-2010)
    • Series 5: Photos and Media (1961-2010)
    • Series 6: Biographical Materials (1966-2013)
    No original order existed for this collection. Materials have been organized alphabetically by name or subject.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Pleasants, Ben, 1940-2013 -- Archives