William Blake vs the World

William Blake vs the World

4.49 (91 ratings by Goodreads)
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'A glittering stream of revelatory light . . . Fascinating' THE TIMES
'Rich, complex and original' TOM HOLLAND
'One of the best books on Blake I have ever read' DAVID KEENAN
'Absolutely wonderful!' TERRY GILLIAM
'An alchemical dream of a book' SALENA GODDEN
'Tells us a great deal about all human imagination' ROBIN INCE


Poet, artist, visionary and author of the unofficial English national anthem 'Jerusalem', William Blake is an archetypal misunderstood genius. His life passed without recognition and he worked without reward, mocked, dismissed and misinterpreted. Yet from his ignoble end in a pauper's grave, Blake now occupies a unique position as an artist who unites and attracts people from all corners of society, and a rare inclusive symbol of English identity.

Blake famously experienced visions, and it is these that shaped his attitude to politics, sex, religion, society and art. Thanks to the work of neuroscientists and psychologists, we are now in a better position to understand what was happening inside that remarkable mind, and gain a deeper appreciation of his brilliance. His timeless work, we will find, has never been more relevant.

In William Blake vs the World 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. Taking the reader on wild detours into unfamiliar territory, John Higgs places the bewildering eccentricities of a most singular artist into context. And although the journey begins with us trying to understand him, we will ultimately discover that it is Blake who helps us to understand ourselves.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 400 pages
  • 152 x 236 x 40mm | 665g
  • Weidenfeld & Nicolson
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1474614353
  • 9781474614351
  • 18,451

Review Text

[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
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Review quote

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 * THE TIMES * Rich, complex and original, Higgs takes us to places that even Blake himself might have found surprising -- TOM HOLLAND, author of DOMINION 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 true user's guide to the imagination, and one of the best books on Blake I have ever read -- DAVID KEENAN, author of XSTABETH 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 * 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 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 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 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 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 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 * 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 * 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 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 * 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 Invaluable and timely . . . Higgs's book greatly contributes to our contemporary appreciation of Blake * SUNDAY BUSINESS POST * 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 [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 * [Higgs's] is a systematising imagination, able to harness disparate elements and find the patterns that animate them -- Melissa Harrison * FINANCIAL TIMES *
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About John Higgs

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Rating details

91 ratings
4.49 out of 5 stars
5 58% (53)
4 34% (31)
3 7% (6)
2 1% (1)
1 0% (0)
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