Kathe Koja – Fan of Fun

Kathe Koja is a writer, reader, producer – Under the Poppy & Faustus Detroit – and fan of fun. Her latest novel, The Mercury Waltz, will shortly be published by Roadswell Editions.  These are her good things

Good things to read.

A Dead Man in Deptford, Anthony Burgess. Get drunk on the switchback
virtuoso language, stay to have your heart wrung by this novel about
Christopher Marlowe, Elizabethan poet, playwright, spy, and badass. Everyone
knows Burgess’ CLOCKWORK ORANGE; you need to know this book, too.

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë. You think you know it, but you don’t. One
of the blackest, funniest – yes, funniest – most passionate novels ever, it
shocked the dumbass reviewers of its time and continues to speak the
language of authentic desire.

No-Good The Dancing Donkey, Dorothea J. Snow: I’m dead serious. This 1940’s
book for little kids is the most unsparing parable of living the creative
life that you’ll ever read. Just try to stop No-Good, you bitchy farmer’s

Good things to watch.

Any Derek Jarman film, because his vision was unique and his outrage knew
how to dance. Edward II is my favorite, but any of them will serve as a
gateway drug.

Deadwood.  The whole series, preferably in one wallowing, curse-filled
binge. David Milch made it epic, and the ensemble made it transcendent.

That one movie you vowed you’d never watch: Because sometimes it’s good to
break a vow.

Good things to use.

Pencils. Because they’re fun. I like the eensy, soba-noodle-sized ones from
Camel in Japan, but all pencils are good. They accept you as you are, they
offer an eraser, and they disappear when their use is ended.

Your sense of humor. Because there is so much that’s wrong, sad, abhorrent,
unfixable about life on earth, we need to approach all that we CAN fix with
a light heart. Because it gives us energy to get the job done.

Your inside voice. Unless you’re outside.

Follow Kathe Koja on Twitter, @KatheKoja.

James Vance – Aspiring Bioengineer

These are James Vance’s good things.

Good things to read.

When Judy Dench quotes Ulysses in Skyfall, it’s a reminder that a sincere and humble 19th century British culture was the precursor to fabulous MI6. Ulysses insists that one’s struggle for greatness and adventure must never end, regardless of prior accomplishments. That’s an incredibly powerful lesson delivered in a three minute poem. It’s unfortunate that many Americans believe motivation costs thousands of dollars and a weekend with Tony Robbins.

How To Get Rich by Felix Dennis. Like every other business manual, it’s packed with parables of attracting talent, negotiating, making quality product, and keeping profit at the forefront. But uniqueness of this book comes when its billionaire author tries to convince you that unapologetic viciousness is essential for success. An excerpt: “The world is full of gazelles with diamonds in their guts. Look! There’s one over there, right now! Let’s go rip its throat out and take the diamond.”

Einstein, By Walter Isaacson. Einstein rationalized everything . He decided literature could teach him no useful lessons, and was unapologetic about his constant philandering, even before fame. Einstein’s character was so raw and bright that its pointless to contemplate for too long what would he would become if born today.

Good things to watch.

Coursera Video Lectures. We can access free courses given by elite professors. Lucky us.

The Pope of Greenwich Village. “They took my thumb Charlieeee!”

MMA. First, it’s televised violence. But second, it’s a never-ending study of the human ego. Legends grow. Heroes fall. No man is indestructible. No performance is permanent. Those who cannot become champion must find greatness wherever they can.

Good things to use.

Foresight. Donald Trump may be unlikable and obtuse, but he gives the future so much precedent it can’t help but work itself out for him.

Pencils. Physically forming words gives the brain rhythm and more time to form synapses.

Others. The funny thing about “lone geniuses” is how many brilliant friends came along to improve their work.