A six-and-a-bit-weekly newsletter from author John Higgs. If you haven’t already subscribed, you can do so here.
May Day 2021
It’s nearly time for my new book WILLIAM BLAKE VS THE WORLD to be released into the world. The pandemic has meant that normal book launches aren’t possible, but we’ve come up with an alternative which is, I think it’s fair to say, pretty damn special.
The online launch will be on May 27th at 7:30pm, and is hosted by the British Library. It features me being interviewed by Robin Ince, readings from Salena Godden as the Voice of Blake, a look at original Blake manuscripts with the British Library curator Alexandra Ault, and an extra special reading from the shining soul that is the poet, rapper and President of the Blake Society Kae Tempest.
If that’s not enough, there will also be contributions from those imagination-soaked authors Neil Gaiman (in New Zealand) and David Keenan, talking about what Blake means to them.
When you are dealing with Blake there is always the pressure to go the extra mile and make something worthy of his name. As online book launches go, this is something well worth your time and I hope you’ll join us. It’s free for British Library members and people who buy the book, and a fiver for everyone else. You can book tickets and find more details here.
The day we spent filming all this at the British Library was an absolute joy for many reasons, and being able to see Blake’s notebook was certainly one of them. This is the book that originally belonged to his beloved late brother Robert, which William went on to use for three decades. It contains sketches and versions of some of his most famous poems. It’s one of the treasures of the British Library – and indeed the world, as I see it. I love this rare self portrait, alongside the sentence ’23 May 1810 found the world golden’.
And look, it also includes a little sketch by Blake which appears to be a man taking a piss:
It was a wonderful day and fortunately things didn’t get out of hand, unlike that other time I had access to Blake originals.
Huge thanks to Jon Fawcett at the British Library for making all this possible. The online launch is on the original release date of May 27th, although printer-woes have meant that the book itself is delayed. Only by 5 days, though, so it will be with you on 1st June. I can’t wait for you all to see it. I’ve been blown away by early reactions to it – here are some of the quotes you’ll find on the back:
It’s available for pre-order here and if you read it, it would help massively if you talked about it, shared it on social media or left an Amazon review – anything like that would be hugely appreciated, you hero.
OTHER EVENTS AND STUFF
An online launch is all well and good, but an important aspect of Blake’s philosophy was people getting together and having a jolly. So there’s another event planed in Sheffield in July in order to do just that. It’s a day called Blame Blake, and here’s the poster with all the details:
There’s also an event in the Brighton Spiegeltent on June 15 to look forward to. This is with Jennifer Lucy Allan, whose book The Foghorn’s Lament is a delight. It is, as the name suggests, a book about her obsession with foghorns. So Brighton folk, come along to an evening of foghorns and Blake – it’s so right it hurts. As the event promoter David Bramwell has pointed out, “no-one else is doing Foghorns and William Blake, we’re well ahead of the curve.”
There’s more events coming – including an online Blake Society talk on June 16th. When there are links for these, you’ll find them on the events page on my website, so keep an eye on that.
Another book which is highly recommended is Richard Blandford’s new novel, Whatever You Are Is Beautiful, a terrific novel that heartily embraces the absurdity of superhero culture. It’s ebook only but only 99p for a brief period, so well worth a punt.
My evil friend Shardcore – who you may remember being behind the AI-generated version of The Future Starts Here – has finally got access to the GPT3 text generation AI, and he naturally asked it to generate the story of The KLF as if it was written by William Blake. Now, I realise that AI-generated Blakean KLF histories is a bit of a niche interest, but I also know that if there are people out there who are into this, then they subscribe to this newsletter.
So I’ll leave you with this – hope you can make it to the launch and that you’ll have the book in your hands soon. Until next time!
The story of The KLF by William Blake
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
And he answered, “I am the First and the Last. I am He who liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”
And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, “Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”
And with these words came a great light. And as it grew brighter still I beheld two figures standing before me. One was robed in white, shining like a star in a cloudless sky. The other was robed in black. His face was hidden from me by a mask fashioned from a human skull. In his hand he held an object that glowed like fire but gave off no heat. It seemed to be made from gold but it was not gold. It seemed to be made from glass but it was not glass. It seemed to be made from crystal but it was not crystal. It seemed to be made from stone but it was not stone. It seemed to be made from water but it was not water. And yet it did seem to be all these things at once…and more besides!
“The time has come,” said the man in white robes, “for you to choose between good and evil.”
“The time has come,” said the man in black robes, “for you to choose between life or death.”
“Choose wisely,” said both men together as they turned their backs on me and walked away into the darkness beyond my sight…