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Author Interview with Leza Lowitz

An interview with Author Leza Lowitz

by Greg H. (VOSTROMO)



LEZA LOWITZ has published more than fifteen books as an author, co-author, translator and editor. Her work has received international acclaim and won numerous literary and cultural awards. She has written for The Japan Times, Art in America magazine, and lectured at Tokyo University. She also runs Sun and Moon Yoga in Tokyo, where she has lived since 2003.

I met Leza in college, when two of the most striking eyes I’d ever seen turned out to be hers. Indeed, my unrequited collegiate crush on her led to some interesting times which are now part of underclass legend at Princeton – which is odd, since that’s not where we went to school. She is so accomplished, so polished, so able, that I’ve made her the sole beneficiary of my will, with the proviso that she must first voluntarily, and in front of witnesses, break a nail, stub a toe on the coffee table, or drop some kushiyaki on her sweater. Indeed reading her posts on Facebook only pisses me off, daily. It’s worth noting that Leza, for whom Japan is home and where her talents most flourished, first journeyed there in 1989, shortly after we met; could her wild success be in part attributable to a lack of Me? It is likely the answer is ever unknowable, but I, for one, choose to believe.




Q:  Congratulations on the publication of your novel JET BLACK AND THE NINJA WIND. I understand it’s the first in a projected trilogy for YA readers. Can you get me Jennifer Lawrence’s phone number?

LL: I was going to ask you the same question. Actually, I was hoping you could hook us up with Sonny Chiba.

[Editor’s note: a representative for Sonny Chiba declined our request for an interview, noting that Mr. Chiba “has much better things to do with his time.”]


Q:  On your website LezaLowitz.com – itself unfairly well-designed – your bio notes that your husband Shogo Oketani is also a writer, and that as a couple you often collaborate. Is Hanebisho toilet tissue really worth the outrageous price?

LL:  Well, as you noted, we collaborate on writing. So you know, Hanebisho deluxe paper is out of reach. Luckily, though, Japanese toilets do almost everything for you. Really, the Yubari Kings are what set us back.


Q:  You have received many accolades and awards for your work, including the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, The Bay Area Independent Publisher’s Association Award, the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, a California Arts Council Individual Fellowship in Poetry, an Independent Scholar Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Copperfield’s Dickens Fiction Award, the Barbara Deming Memorial Award, the Japanophile Fiction Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award for Editorial Excellence, the Tokyo Journal Fiction Translation Award, and two Pushcart Prize nominations, and with your husband you also received the 2003 Japan/US Friendship Commission Award for the Translation of Japanese Literature from the Donald Keene Center for Japanese Culture at Columbia University. Where can I have my keyboard repaired, since the semi-colon is broken?

LL:  Can’t you fix it? I thought you could do anything, Greg! And when you’re done fixing yours, can I send you mine? My trackpad is broken. Maybe from the hundreds of queries I’ve sent out over the years. Even my trackpad couldn’t keep track.


Q:  We met in college, and I made no secret that I thought your poetry was already at a superior level not just to my own but to everyone else’s, and that if you decided to pursue a career as a writer, you would meet with great success. Indeed, I treasure the folder of typed originals I have – I read them anew every year. I don’t have a question here, I just wanted to let you know I’m keeping those, and there’s no use asking for them again.

LL:  That explains everything: all the poems I’ve sent out from the folder on my desk were yours, then. As for mine, they’ll come in handy with the first snows this winter. Make yourself a good bonfire, will you?

[Editor’s note: it is not clear whether Ms Lowitz’s remarks were intended sarcastically or not due to the poor quality of my eyeglasses. The total number of available pages of her poetry is 28, which would provide an R value of approximately 0.0000000004, equivalent to a 1/8” thick slice of wet tofu.]


Q: You’ve mentioned that what led you to Japan, which became your home and the center of your family life with Shogo and your son Yuto, was in part a childhood interest in martial arts and meditation. Why do you think Japanese vending machines, in particular, are more widely accepted than they are in the States for high-end products?

LL:  High-end meaning porno and panties? Or were you referring to Smart Cars, batteries, lettuce and milk?

[Editor’s note: The interviewer, as well as paperbackswap.com and its representatives, disclaim all knowledge of, or experience with, porn vending machines in Asia. Anyway those DVDs don’t play over here. No, wait —]


Q:  You grew up in San Francisco, which is among America’s most beautiful cities. Why do people still love the Grateful Dead?

LL:  Who wouldn’t love to be on a long, strange perpetual trip? And the tie-dye doesn’t hurt, either.


Q:  Do you find it more satisfying to write shorter forms, like poems and essays, or longer forms like your novel? Is one easier than the other? If you need more space, feel free to use the back of this website.

LL:  Shogo was the one who really wrote Jet Black, so you’ll have to ask him. If I ever finish a novel on my own, I’ll let you know. I’m in the midst of writing one now about Berkeley in the 1970s. I’m hoping some of Jet’s ninja powers will rub off on me and lead me to the finish line.


Q:  In addition to your successful career as a writer, you teach yoga and meditation at your studio, Sun and Moon Yoga. How can one approach someone who plans to go out in spandex, or yoga pants, and tell them it’s not a good look for their body type, without seeming like a total a**hole and maybe losing her as a friend, which would suck because she has cable?

LL:  Well, we all know you have an exceptional sense of style. Whenever I get dressed in the morning, I ask, what would Havas do? And then I do the opposite. Except when it comes to footwear. You had me at Converse High Tops. Oh, sorry. What was the question?

[Editor’s note: it is not clear whether Ms Lowitz’s remarks were intended sarcastically or not due to the poor quality of my willingness to admit she may be on to something. Her inability to maintain the thread of questioning, however, is something for which I take full credit and wish to be remembered.]


Q:  In the short space we have remaining, tell our readers something about me that they might find surprising.

LL:  You’re very, very funny. Really. And I think I remember that you can cook, too.

[Editor’s note: it is not clear whether Ms Lowitz’s remarks were intended sarcastically or not due to the poor quality of my nonstick cookware. At this point in the interview I was asked to deposit another twenty-five cents, but demurred because New Girl was coming on. The connection was dropped.]



Thank you Ms. Lowitz for agreeing to put up with be interviewed by Greg! Best of luck with your new book!
Below are just a few of Ms. Lowitz’s books:



To read more about Leza Lowitz you can visit her website  www.lezalowitz.com






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4 Responses to “Author Interview with Leza Lowitz”

  1. Veronica S. (snowkitty) says:

    Entertaining as always, Greg.

  2. Lori B. says:

    Excellent interview; thanks for the glimpse into the life of Leza Lowitz. Yoga and meditation are two of my special interests, so thanks for the suggested additional titles. Best of luck with the Ninja Wind trilogy, Leza. Any extra insights into VOSTROMO that you can share, could net you more book credits here than you could ever use. Think about it.

  3. Ani K. (goddessani) says:

    Another scintillating interview about yourself, I mean an author friend of yours, Vostromo. Hard to believe there is someone else nearly as sarcastic as yourself, Greg.

    Good job!

  4. VOSTROMO says:

    Here are the life-changing Missing Fifty Words:

    [Editor’s note: Mr and Mrs Yubari King, originally from Cedar Rapids, IA, are perhaps best known for founding the Sino-American Cantaloupe Society in January 1974 and working tirelessly, if fruitlessly, to have the cantaloupe declared the American national melon. They were encouraged to emigrate to Japan in February of 1974.]

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