Ben Leib is a pen name. I originally created it in order to preserve a modicum of anonymity when writing autobiographical stories – in other words, as a means to eschew responsibility. But I’ve maintained the pseudonym even since becoming comfortable standing behind what I’ve written. So many people button themselves into rigid identities, but I find the notion of being “A Writer” is too much of a commitment. In that sense, having a pen name has allowed me to shift the burden of identity. Furthermore, the stories published under the name Ben Leib are products of the labor of numerous individuals who’ve helped with editing and inspiration and support, and attributing the work to him prevents me from claiming authorship over something that is not mine alone.
I’ve been inspired by many great California authors: Chandler, Fante Sr. and Jr., Didion, Elroy, and Bukowski each write with a hardness that I find compelling. And often these authors portray a hyper-masculinity that seems embedded in the American literary tradition. I fall prey to that masculinity, but I also attempt to interrogate it in my fiction. I want to have it both ways. I want to live in the fantasy of romantic gender stereotypes while simultaneously revealing them to be the oppressive forces that they are. Occasionally I’m nearly successful in this project. More often, I end up participating in the thing I see as flawed, and that makes me wish I was more talented (and therefore thankful for pen names).
Feel free to check out my write up on the Book Shop Santa Cruz website. And here’s a winning recommendation from Winning Writers – “The blog of this innovative short fiction writer features links to numerous online journals where his work can be found. Prepare yourself for surreal and self-mocking literary adventures about bad neighbors, vengeful clowns, and errant body parts.”