In this transportive novel, High penetrates to the heart of fervor, the serrated need at the core of human love.
Village Voice Literary Supplement, The Lit Parade: Our 25 Favorites of 1999
…accurately conveyed desire to make a novel tell the story of love and death, always and everywhere.
Whether it’s set during the Revolution or much later isn’t clear, nor does it really matter, for the sense of loss, rootlessness, and the horrors of war remain the same no matter what the time period. Perhaps because of the grim reality, the characters’ awareness of spirituality and humanity are heightened.
Is it possible to translate and transpose the slippery texture of desire? For John High, it is both possible and impossible, and his own attempt at the task has resulted in the genre-bending triptych he calls The Desire Notebooks. His is a difficult, haunted, heartbreakingly lyrical book, fraught with allegory, agile at “wandering in and out of history”; it winds concentrically along parallel tracks in search of “a language of desire that outlives each desire in and of itself.”
John High…..pushes prose past myth’s exploitation and across a protean inner landscape, where vision explodes on impact with the yearnings of body and soul. The story of two lovers and their passage on a train through the harsh Siberian winter, this is also the story of the Notebooks, notebooks that contain the story within a story, one that folds over – and unfolds from – a journey into the fractal of the spirit.
Web Del Sol, Editor’s Picks, December 1999
John High’s expansive opus, The Desire Notebooks, pulsates with fullness and loss. It’s always startling to find yourself close to someone whose vibrant voice responds to every nuance of the breathing world, whose sentient experience is so awake that you find yourself awakened. This work roves through rituals of experience and imagination, taking us there.
Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun
John High writes in a dense dreamy shorthand that manages to capture several complex worlds at once.
Molly Giles, author of Creek Walk and Other Stories
A beautiful book: luminous, mysterious, hypnotic.
Carole Maso, author of Defiance
It is intelligent, sensitive, and passionate writing in the tradition of Pessoa, Duras, Figes, Cortazar, Maso, and Calvino.
John High is the author of several books, including Ceremonies, Sometimes Survival, the lives of thomas-episodes and prayers, and The Sasha Poems: A Book of Fables. He is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including three Fulbrights, two National Endowments and poetry awards from the Witter Bynner Foundation, Arts International, and Arts Link. The publication in 1997 (excerpts from) The Sasha Poems met with extraordinary critical acclaim, here and abroad. He is the editor of Crossing Centuries: The New Russian Poetry (Talisman House). A founding editor of the Five Fingers Review, he has also co-translated books of the Russian poets Nina Iskrenko, Aleksei Parshchikov and Ivan Zhdanov.