... lets in a glittering stream of revelatory light ... Higgs, in his attempts to unpick it, 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 ... A book that starts out as a sophisticated Passnotes-style key to Blake’s poetry ends up as a particularly fascinating form of self-help manual. I will certainly be thinking of adding it to my 'volumes to pass on life wisdom' list.
... [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 ... What emerges from these vertiginously ahistorical perspectives is a penetrating account of a prismatically minded Blake: shine the light of quantum physics or neuroscience on him, and it is reflected back as a rainbow of possibilities ... This, then, is Blake for the 2020s, and inevitably references to popular culture abound...Higgs is at his best writing about Blake rather than Wordsworth or Coleridge, the Beatles or Bowie, and best of all writing about Blake’s writing. There is little on his artwork, and sadly the book has no colour plates.
Higgs’s Blake is not the tripped-out proto-hippie of some renderings, nor is he a Blake for everyone — although Higgs, despite his book’s pugilistic title and his close examination of many of the major quarrels in Blake’s life, sometimes presents a suspiciously conciliatory portrait of a poet who, he says, 'accepts all sides.' A glance at Blake’s annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds’s discourses shows how scathingly he could reject ideas he knew to be appalling; a quick reading of his damning poem London would do the job, too. Higgs’s Blake is, instead, a Blake for anyone whose sensibilities harmonize with Higgs’s interests in neuroscience and quantum mechanics, Star Wars analogies, and discussions of Carl Jung and Eckhart Tolle ... How others will receive the book may well depend on where they sit on the innocent-to-experienced continuum. To me, Higgs often comes across as a bewilderingly innocent reader of Blake, his ear untuned to the poet’s frequencies of irony and humor and to the interpretive and emotional possibilities they extend. But Higgs’s writing is consistently clear and confident, even when he is wrong ... Higgs is more convincing when writing about Blake’s knotty and paradoxical views on the natural world, and when he underscores the essential, pervasive sexuality in Blake’s output ... t times, his protracted ruminations on sciences and philosophies took me farther from Blake rather than closer to him, and his profusion of pop-culture pings felt superfluous ... At other times, 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. His tone is measured, but Higgs does not cease from mental fight in his earnest quest to understand and explain a mind that, he writes, is perhaps 'too big a mind for us to ever properly grasp.' Maybe that’s why, when I came to the end of his book, I felt I’d learned more about the mind of John Higgs than that of William Blake.