Poems about pain and eventual recovery that may fail to evoke much sympathy.


From Hell to Heaven, One Man's Journey

Gustav chronicles a bitter divorce and eventual spiritual awakening in this debut poetry collection.

From the first verses in this book, the author fixates on the pain that his wife caused by leaving him. It may be difficult for readers to appreciate the poems’ bursts of anger as expressions of raw emotion, though, as they’re so incongruous with the simple rhymes and antiquated poetic structures: “Not enough she says as I am still not happy / Go make some more, so I can spend it as I hate feeling so crappy.” Although the poems paint the ex-wife as a materialistic liar, readers may find that their portrayal of the unfairness of the situation is overshadowed by a strong streak of misogyny in some verses. The poems sometimes refer to the ex-wife using vulgarities, as in “The Pig.” The poems’ reflections on family aren’t limited to marriage, however, as they also address other family members: “Yet my Mom feels it is her right to intervene / Play the game of the go between / For this I will not support, so it is time for you to leave.” Just when the poems seem to be on the verge of an existential breakthrough, talking about loftier notions of acceptance, sacrifice, or karma, their unwavering indignation gets in the way of expressing something more constructive. Some lines (“When looked at it with this viewpoint, is there a right or wrong? / Wronger’s are willing to acknowledge and accept / Righter’s are not quite there.....yet”) assert the author’s superiority while also touching on the relativity of fault at the end of a relationship. The poems also offer the author’s observations about his work, his longing for more time with his children, and his journey to Christianity. At times, the poems reveal the author’s eye for detail and talent for concise metaphors; he perfectly sums up his father’s anger, for example, describing it as “like blasts of hot air from a tuba.” By the end of the collection, he also writes, “you realize it is a contest of wills as you see both sides / Yet being one closer to God you must take HIS plane, love as he does.” If the collection had more of this calmer tone and less vitriol, it might have been more relatable and enjoyable.

Poems about pain and eventual recovery that may fail to evoke much sympathy. 

Pub Date: April 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5049-0494-0

Page Count: 262

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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