High’d Up – Dennis James Bartel
Sacred and profane to extremes, High’d Up tells a story of Sikhs and Schumann, of a young woman’s search and a young man’s escape, and of L.A. and the Nam. It drips with sensuality, beams with spirituality, and evokes a time of probing innocence which once appeared bright as a third-eye revelation, but is now past and buried with a generation’s discarded relics. It is a perspicuous, knowing, and wickedly funny novel.
With every generation, a handful of novels break literary rules so decisively they change what the novel can be. Such books include Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer, Lolita, Giovanni’s Room, A Sport and a Pastime, Portnoy’s Complaint, Fear of Flying, A Boy’s Own Story, and The Good Mother, novels which may have little in common, but they all shared one experience, shocking and disturbing many of their first readers’ more proper sensibilities where it comes to sex.
High’d Up sits in the same barrel as these novels by D.H. Lawrence and Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund White and Sue Miller. As Salter vividly took us to the French town of Autun, in the Burgundy region, Bartel takes us to a shore-side mansion-ashram in Long Beach and into the world of Sikhism, American Style. As Baldwin gave us the doomed Giovanni, Bartel gives us the twice doomed Robert Schumann. As Roth’s Portnoy struggled with “a disorder in which strongly felt ethical . . . impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings,” Bartel’s Meier’s ethical self is at war with his fornicating self. As Jong coined the term “zipless fuck,” Bartel has done for “high’d up.” As the final pages of Tropic of Cancer vibrate with exultant momentum, so the final pages of High’d Up reach their tremendous crescendo.
“High’d Up is the most erudite novel I’ve ever read.” – J.T. Ledbetter, renowned poet and Professor Emeritus at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.