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Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles (Myths) [Paperback]

Jeanette Winterson
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
Price: 6.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

6 July 2006 Myths
Condemned to shoulder the world "for ever" by the gods he dared defy, freedom seems unattainable to Atlas. But then he receives an unexpected visit from Heracles, the one man strong enough to share the burden, and it seems they can strike a bargain that might release him ... Jeanette Winterson asks difficult questions about the nature of choice and coercion in her dazzling retelling of the myth of Atlas and Heracles. Visionary and inventive, believable and intimate, Weight turns the familiar on its head to show us ourselves in a new light.

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Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles (Myths) + The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (Myths)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (6 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841957755
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841957753
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester and read English at Oxford, during which time she wrote her first novel, the Whitbread award winning Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. Tanglewreck, Jeanette's first novel for children, was published to great critical acclaim in 2006. In the same year she was awarded an OBE for services to literature.

Product Description

Review

"A touching meditation on the difficult journey to self-knowledge, and also extremely funny, communicating verve and wit." -- Guardian

"An original and challenging approach ... profound and provocative." -- Daily Mail

"Inspired by a Titan, she begins appropriately on a titanic scale ... bringing her musings home to the human scale." -- Sunday Times

"[Winterson] produces some exquisitely filmic prose that is almost mythopoetic." -- Independent

About the Author

Jeanette Winterson's first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit won the Whitbread prize for Best First Novel. Since then she has published seven other novels, including The Passion, Written on the Body and The PowerBook, a collection of short stories, The World and Other Places, a book of essays, Art Objects and most recently a children's picture book, The King of Capri. She has adapted her work for TV, film and stage. Her books are published in 32 countries. She lives in Oxfordshire and London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing 2 Dec 2010
By Jimbo
Format:Paperback
Weight retells the story of how Atlas came to carry the universe on his shoulders, and the temporary relief he received from Heracles, in a retelling of Ancient Greek myths.

The book really jars halfway through when Winterson inserts an auto-biographical note, drawing an explicit connection between Atlas carrying the weight of the universe on his shoulders and the way that she, and by extension other people, approach problems as they move through life. This rather creates a sledgehammer effect, forcing the reader to consider her explicitly drawn metaphor as one reads the rest of the book. This is not to say that the link is not one worth drawing attention to, it is just rather clumsily inserted. Attention to the metaphor could be better drawn at the end of the book as the 150 pages is not cumbersome enough not to be easily reread if the needed.

That Winsterson chose to do this is rather a shame as the rest of the book is very well written. The dialogue brings a real vibrancy, and Atlas' philosophical musings and general weariness fits in well with the story. Heracles is an entertainingly drawn, and comes across as a sex-pest with no regard for anyone's sexual needs bar his own. Winterson also has fun with the text, which frequently brings a smile to ones face, for example when Heracles, holding the universe, complains about mountains digging into his neck. The appearance of Soviet space doggy Laika towards the end is also touching. Overall, there is enough to make it worth checking out, but prepare yourself for the smack of the sledgehammer!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I want to tell the story again" 19 Dec 2009
By Sam Woodward TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
"[Atlas] turned his head &, just for a moment he didn't see the universe balanced there on his back. It was himself he was carrying, colossal & weighty, little Atlas desperately holding up the Atlas of the world."

We all know the gist of the story - after failing in his struggle to attain freedom from the Gods, giant Atlas is condemned to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. But what exactly was he struggling for in the first place? Even he is no longer sure - merely that "what began as just cause became just excuse". Then one day, Heracles arrives. He needs the (literally) world-weary Atlas' help to complete one of his legendary tasks, so offers to shoulder his burden for one day. This could be an opportunity for escape - but how can we run away from burdens we place on ourselves; which only exist in our own minds?

Winterson masterfully retells the ancient myth with canny psychological insight into the iconic Gods & legendary characters; the impulsive solipsism of fame-seeker Heracles & Atlas' desire for freedom clashing with his vanity & sense of responsibility. These are combined with Winterson's personal reflections on her own mental burdens & how this story has been `retold' in her own life ("my girlfriend says I have an Atlas complex", she reveals). Thus she breathes fresh life & relevance into a tale often repeated in a manner drier than ancient parchment. She also shows great insight into the purpose of myths - using the incredible to teach us humanly mundane truths about our personal mental landscapes & the drives which affect our species as a whole.

Weight drifts in places but is fabulously written with much to ponder in such a short volume.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 14 July 2013
By R. A. Davison TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Weight by Jeanette Winterson belongs to "The Canongate Myths" series from whence also came Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus And The Scoundrel Christ and Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, both of which I had already read. Therefore I can say with utter certainty that this novel is far superior to both those works by a country mile.

I have seen Jeanette Winterson on television twice - once interviewed by Anne Robinson for 'My Life In Books' and then interviewed by Alan Yentob for Imagine. Her Imagine episode was one of the most heartbreaking and moving interviews of an author I have ever seen. I was fascinated by her and also, for a variety of reasons, saw her as a fellow survivor on the road who I deeply identified with.

Therefore, it was to my great shame, though I had wanted to and been prevented from reading 'Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit' as a 12 yr old, that I had not read a single one of her novels. I spied Weight in a charity shop and it was an instabuy not only because it was Jeanette Winterson but because I loved Greek Mythology when I did it first in primary school, then at university.

Weight takes the myth of Atlas and Heracles and retells it in a new and more literary way. At certain points Winterson interjects and speaks about how in many ways, the myth of Atlas is "her myth"- the one bearing most comparison to her own life, and that, too, I found I identified with.

Weight may be rather short but there is utter beauty in its brevity. Some of the one line sentences in this novel are stunning. As prose it is gorgeous, lyrical, emotive, resonating.

There is little I feel I need to say further about this book except this :

It is wonderful. Please read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant 3 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
just what i needed for my uni assignment arrived quickly in perfect condition, would highly recommend and would definately use again.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Weight
I disliked it and I wouldn't recommend it. Ms Winterson can do so much better, as proven in her earlier writing style, which she should go back to.
Published 19 months ago by b. white
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I didn't find this tome anything like as captivating as Winterson's other works, and was disappointed by its quirkiness. Won't be re-reading this, or recommending it to friends.
Published 20 months ago by stearns2
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I read this book in a day and love it! the way it has been written is excellent and id reccomend it to anyone! its a book that can be read over and over again!
Published on 7 Mar 2012 by Gee
5.0 out of 5 stars Weight
To be honest, I never used to like Jeanette Winterson much. I found her too cocky by half. However my husband is a huge fan of hers and for my fiftieth birthday presented me with a... Read more
Published on 9 Jan 2012 by Elodie
5.0 out of 5 stars "I want to tell the story again"
"[Atlas] turned his head &, just for a moment he didn't see the universe balanced there on his back. Read more
Published on 19 Dec 2009 by Sam Woodward
5.0 out of 5 stars "I want to tell the story again"
"[Atlas] turned his head &, just for a moment he didn't see the universe balanced there on his back. Read more
Published on 19 Dec 2009 by Sam Woodward
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of a story.
Now on to much weightier matters. Winterson takes a much different approach than Atwood. She tells this tale as herself telling her tale retelling a tale. Confusing? No not really. Read more
Published on 31 May 2008 by Steven R. McEvoy
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of a story.
Now on to much weightier matters. Winterson takes a much different approach than Atwood. She tells this tale as herself telling her tale retelling a tale. Confusing? No not really. Read more
Published on 31 May 2008 by Steven R. McEvoy
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of a story.
Now on to much weightier matters. Winterson takes a much different approach than Atwood. She tells this tale as herself telling her tale retelling a tale. Confusing? No not really. Read more
Published on 31 May 2008 by Steven R. McEvoy
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