William Blake vs the World

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Audiobook Downloadable / ISBN-13: 9781474614382

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Poet, artist, visionary and author of the unofficial English national anthem ‘Jerusalem’, William Blake is an archetypal misunderstood genius. In this radical new biography, we return to a world of riots, revolutions and radicals, discuss movements from the Levellers of the sixteenth century to the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s, and explore the latest discoveries in neurobiology, quantum physics and comparative religion to look afresh at Blake’s life and work – and, crucially, his mind. Taking the reader on wild detours into unfamiliar territory, John Higgs places the bewildering eccentricities of a most singular artist into context and shows us how Blake can help us better understand ourselves.

Reviews

[Higgs's] is a systematising imagination, able to harness disparate elements and find the patterns that animate them
Melissa Harrison, FINANCIAL TIMES
A bold, original and dazzling journey through the complex ideas and mythological landscapes of one of Britain's greatest - and most misunderstood - visionaries
DAVID BRAMWELL, co-author of THE ODDITORIUM
A true user's guide to the imagination, and one of the best books on Blake I have ever read
DAVID KEENAN, author of XSTABETH
Absolutely wonderful! This book managed to make Blake's mind and mythology understandable to me at last - for that I am truly grateful
TERRY GILLIAM
Blake is a complete mystery to me so I'm loving this book, which charts Blake's extraordinary imaginative life - this mythological reading of reality that he invented, or discovered. You start to think: "Oh my God, that artist has been somewhere in my consciousness for the whole of my life, but I know absolutely nothing about them." There's a whole world just on my doorstep that I didn't realise existed
Simon Russell Beale, OBSERVER
Higgs handles the complexities of Blake, particularly the later Blake, with adroit confidence, and in doing so he offers a crisp, ambitious and thoroughly contemporary introduction
TLS
Higgs has a miraculous ability to unlock hitherto impenetrable cultural icons. He takes us on a breathtaking and joyous ride through the many wonders of Blake's creations, expertly weaving in philosophy, quantum physics and popular culture. Astounding
CHRIS ATKINS, author of A BIT OF A STRETCH
Invaluable and timely . . . Higgs's book greatly contributes to our contemporary appreciation of Blake
Eamon Sweeney, SUNDAY BUSINESS POST
John Higgs brings William Blake to life as a decidedly modern figure in this thoughtful and entertaining book, a timely reminder that we could all do with cracking open our minds to the mystical and visionary as a counter to our age of algorithmically-determined, bitter discourse and high-tech overload
LUKE TURNER, author of OUT OF THE WOODS
John Higgs has managed to wrest Blake from the hands of the academics and return him to the people, where he belongs. He shows us just how relevant Blake's vision is in this time of crisis and confusion, and how crucial it is for all of us to try to see the world the way Blake saw it
CJ STONE, author of FIERCE DANCING
John Higgs's book lets in a glittering stream of revelatory light . . . [he] has us wrestling with flow states and default mode networks, Newtonian world views, synaesthesia and Jungian shadows. Conventional expectations are ripped to shreds. Higgs's prose has a diamond-hard clarity. He knows how to make us relate. Before long you will find you are examining yourself as much as you are examining Blake . . . Fascinating
Rachel Campbell-Johnston, THE TIMES
John Higgs's work is always revelatory and WILLIAM BLAKE VS THE WORLD is no different. It is a dynamic book that makes Blake vivid and relevant but which also tells us a great deal about all human imagination. The subject is not only Blake, it is ourselves
ROBIN INCE
Laudable . . . We cannot understand Blake without understanding what he meant by imagination or taking seriously his visions. Higgs does this admirably, by exploring what we know about the mind while maintaining, for our secular times, the sacred quality of Blake's attention
Frances Wilson, SPECTATOR
Rich, complex and original, Higgs takes us to places that even Blake himself might have found surprising
TOM HOLLAND, author of DOMINION
This is an alchemical dream of a book, a compelling, observant and deeply profound insight into William Blake, his life and work, his endurance and inspirations. John Higgs has recorded a life beyond myth. It is a beautiful book, his writing glittering with Blake's visions, soulful creativity and resilience
SALENA GODDEN, author of MRS DEATH MISSES DEATH
You are not obliged to accept every one of the interpretations of Blake offered by John Higgs, but any careful reader must acknowledge the calm and the clarity of this spirited overview. Here is a guide who deserves to be seen as a contemporary Virgil, leading us around the circles of an inexhaustible theory of everything
IAIN SINCLAIR
[Higgs] handles the complexities of Blake, particularly the later Blake, with adroit confidence, and in doing so he offers a crisp, ambitious and thoroughly contemporary introduction
MENTAL HEALTH TODAY
Drawing on up-to-date psychological research, Higgs grasps the essence of Blake and makes it as comprehensible as it is ever likely to be for a non-specialist audience. I have read many books about Blake over the years, but this feels like the only one that remotely bottles the magic; with this book Higgs has reached a completely new level
FORTEAN TIMES
John Higgs argues that we have absorbed Blake into our national consciousness without having the faintest idea of who he was or what he believed in. Higgs's mission, to return to the cockney visionary and his essential strangeness, is Blakeian in its singularity
Frances Wilson, NEW STATESMAN, Books of the Year
A wonderful adventure in politics, art and spiritualty. Comparative religion, neurobiology and even quantum physics are all deployed to better understand a misunderstood genius
John Kelly, Irish Times, Books of the Year
Higgs's writing is consistently clear and confident . . . [he] rightly and persuasively emphasizes the primacy and power of the imagination in Blake's work . . . it was fun to witness Higgs's cogs turning, to hear his thoughts ricocheting against the walls of his internal archive of affinities, allusions and absorptions
NEW YORK TIMES