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The Weight of a Human Heart

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  204 ratings  ·  56 reviews
"You will be astounded by the hugeness ofhis heart, and by the breadth and depth of his vision. O'Neill is a writer of limitless imagination." Hector Tobar, author of The Barbarian Nurseries

Ranging from Australiaand Africa to Europe andAsia and back again,The Weight of a Human Heartheralds a fresh and important new voice in fiction. Ryan O'Neill takes us on a journey that
Paperback, 229 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Black Inc. (first published April 26th 2012)
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T.D. Whittle
This is a generous collection of little gems. It's the first I've read of Ryan O'Neill's writing, and I am now a fan. These stories are vibrant, fresh, and poignant. I laughed out loud, even in the midst of sad tales, where laughter was the last response I had expected from myself. What I love most about this collection is that, while O'Neill has a deft and clever touch with traditional narrative, post-modern send-ups, and meta perspective points-of-view -- making it look easy to bounce between ...more
I should start of by saying I am pretty picky about my short story authors. It is a rare author that really constructs the short story in a manner that I can really get into for an entire book, not just one or two stories. O'Niell is a real master. This is a compilation that had me doing the reading while walking version of a driveway moment (getting to my destination and not going into the store until I had finished the story I was working on).
His stories are varied and playful in voice and st
James Tierney
Like a pack of cards consisting almost entirely of jokers but shuffled with a brace of barbed wire, O'Neill's collection is funny, adventurous, carelessly genre-hopping and occasionally deeply effecting.
The best stories marry the author's natural inventiveness to a heart and are a precise marriage of form and content.
'The Weight of a Human Heart' announces to a broader readership a very considerable talent.

'Collected Stories'
'The Cockroach'
'Four Letter Words'
'Last Words'
'Understand, Understoo
Across the board this is a pretty strong short story collection. Two things I liked in particular were that his stories had satisfying endings that didn't leave you hanging and some of the stories were tremendously creative - one in the form of an school examination and another driven entirely by footnotes. My only complaint is that the author seems to have an overt focus on genocide, in particular the Hutus and the Tutsis in in Rwanda. An author gets to choose what they write about but I would ...more
Amie Wilson
I received a free copy of this book from GoodReads for early review.

Each story in this collection had a unique style, and although some other reviewers found this gimmicky, I thought it was clever and playful. So many of these stories looked at heavy, difficult subjects such as: the crumbling of a marriage communicated via graphs and charts ("Figures in a Marriage"); a child recalling the death of his whole family during the Rwandan genocide, shared through a written school exam ("The Examinatio
Michael Livingston
After the first two stories I was totally knocked out by the, but the longer the collection went on, the more I tired of the tricksiness of O'Neill's stories (a story told in figures, one in book reviews, one via footnotes, one with typographical quirks and so on and so on). O'Neill is clearly smart, funny and a hugely capable writer, but I found myself wanting more heart to the stories and less novelty.
Rowena Tylden-Pattenson
I wish I could give this 5*, and I certainly would for 70% of the book. There were just a few stories that weren't /quite/ as good as the rest though, which means I have to mark this down a little bit. The rest though, stunning.

I am not really one for picking up short story books normally, preferring longer things- but perhaps, that's because I've never actually really done so in the first place. Now I've read this, I really, really am glad that I have, because I absolutely whizzed through it,
The most amazing collection of short stories i have read in a long time. Every story is perfectly formed with some great exercises in style. If you read short stories you must read this book, if you don't then you must!
Short stories are one of my favourite reading experiences. This by far is one of the most unique, obscure and utterly surprising collections I have read in a long time.
Explorations in form and style and some really intriguing plots. This is an excellent collection of original short stories, thoroughly enjoyed.
I think this will be a terrific book! I'm looking forward to getting it and reading it.
Jennifer Mills
Playful with form, serious in content. An adventurous collection.
This is the first book of short stories I've read and loved it. Each story was engaging and well ended, a problem I've had with short stories in the past. O'Neill puts his characters all over the world, but the stories set in Rwanda are particularly moving. And the relationships that O'Neill is able to develop in 10 pages have the depth of much longer stories - his use of language is both descriptive and concise in a way that brings you into the story immediately and holds you with an emotional ...more
In this collection of short stories Ryan O'Neill "redefines the boundaries of what is possible" to quote Patrick Cullen's quote on the front cover. And it is completely true. I saw things in this book I did not even know was allowed in writing until now, and the fact that they are has changed the way I think about what books are capable of.

The beauty of all of O'Neill's stories is that they seem to start so innocently, and in the space of a few pages can change your mood completely, whether to s
Kavita Das
Ryan O'Neill's collection of short stories, The Weight of a Human Heart,is a revelation. I've often found that short story collections are either emotionally resonant and satisfying or clever and inventive. But this collection is the rare one that finds a way to move the genre forward in interesting ways while still delivering stories filled with beautifully realized characters, scenes, and settings. Most of the stories take place in Australia and feature a diverse cast of characters and I parti ...more
Larry Hoffer
ince rediscovering short stories about 15 years ago (for the longest time I didn't like them because I didn't like getting invested in stories that end so quickly), I've read the work of many different authors and seen all types of short stories, from the straightforward to the gimmicky. Ryan O'Neill's collection, The Weight of a Human Heart, combines both characteristics, and the end result is as you might expect from the meshing of the two styles, at times powerful and moving, and at times dis ...more
Tom O’Connell
First, a confession: I’m not a huge fan of experimental literary forms. Nine times out of ten, as I see it, they come off cheap and gimmicky. Maybe that’s an unfair assessment, but many writers seem to play with form just so their work will stand out. To me, it seems like these writers are unsure of themselves. Maybe they feel their work isn’t capable of grabbing readers’ attentions on its own merits so they dress their stories up in clever framing devices. I know that sounds harsh; I’m sure the ...more
Julie Griffin
This book of short stories is one of the most astounding works I have read in a long time. It is almost, um, Hemingway-esque (literally, in some instances) in its focus on stories as a way to reach us, before writers became academics and short stories in particular became instruments for interior navel-gazing. O'Neill takes us to Rwanda, Australia, war zones both physical and marital, in this breath-taking collection. There is plenty of crafts work in this volume, too--O'Neil invites us to play ...more
Jeanne Halloran
The short stories were way to existential for my taste, I read about half of them. The author seems opposed to giving the reader any hope in life, all seems to be for vain. There is no glimmer of hope, no morsel of happiness, each story is a different view on the hopelessness of existence. My personal experience is that life has joys and sufferings, there is always room for hope. Perhaps the author finds it entertaining to paint such a dark picture story after story. I would rather spend my ener ...more
Kari Lynn Mackey
Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Weight of A Human Heart by Ryan O'Neill courtesy of St. Martin's Press, via GoodReads First Reads.

The short stories in O'Neill's collection The Weight of a Human Heart are for the most part overly focused on stylistic literary experimentation rather than on narrative or character development. This feels more like a self-assigned exercise in composition than any sort of enjoyable experience for the reader. A select few of the stories, notably "Africa was
Kay H.
I fell in love with this short story collection half way through the first story and maintained that level of excitement for all but one of them.

Despite my immediate (and continued) love of this book, I can see how some readers might not find the writing style as exciting as I did and so I've been silently assessing everyone I know, trying to decide who best to share this gem of a collection with.
Overall a good collection of short stories. The author is not focused only on the first world.
This was absolutely lovely. I am not a literary critic, so I won't try to be here, but his stories are wonderful to read. In this collection, he uses several different styles to tell his stories, and they are a delight. Figures in a Marriage was wonderful to me, because I hadn't bothered to take the time to imagine that a story could truly be told in a series of charts. A Story in Writing was delightfully self aware once I muddled through to the end. Four Letter Words was also quite fun.

I truly
I really liked the stories in the beginning but was less interested as the book progressed.
Clever short stories, messes with typography and graphs and charts and is just neat.
Camille Chidsey
Amazing first collection. Beautifully crafted, original, and insightful use of different formats of storytelling.
Tom Bentley
Lots of meta-within-meta word and story play in this collection, where O'Neill has a kind of Mobius-strip way of showing us the insides of a story structure while still leading us on a narrative. I was impressed that he was able to assemble and disassemble the building blocks of a narrative in so many different ways, and yet, still write stories that are sharp, poignant and memorable for their emotional power.
Funny thing is, I thought this was really a great short story book after I read the first few stories. The first one was good, the next few were different, interesting, innovative, even humorous. But by the second half the innovation turned cutesy, tedious, and boring. The Rwanda and English as a foreign language themes were repetitious. By the end, I was skimming and feeling almost angry. O'Neill thinks he's re-inventing the short story, but he's forged ahead without us ...the short story reade ...more
I received a free copy of this book **
The stories in this book are cleverly written. Some bored me, some touched me, and others left me wanting more.
In all, I'm glad I read this book - most likely it would not have crossed my path had I not received a copy. I tried to breeze through it but I should remember that, I personally digest short stories better when read one at a time with more than a few moments between. While I recommend "the weight of a human heart," it is now a weight off mine.
One of the best collections of short stories I have read in a long while. Ryan O' Neill has a great way of writing, very unique. I thoroughly enjoyed these collections of short stories. You will find yourself being a fan of short stories even if you are not! Africa was children crying, The Cockroach, The weight of a human heart, they were all great! Estupendous! Thank you Ryan, what a goodread!
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Ryan O'Neill was born in Scotland, and lived and worked in Lithuania, Rwanda and China before settling in NSW, Australia.

His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including Meanjin, Westerly, New Australian Stories, Sleepers Almanac and Best Australian Stories. He is also a fiction editor for Etchings.

Ryan's short story collection, The Weight of a Human Heart, is publi
More about Ryan O'Neill...
A Famine in Newcastle Eight Documents For a Literary Biography / The Zealot (RAF Vol 10 issue 2) Six Tenses The Minutes  / Hemingway's Unfaithful Wife (RAF Volume 4: Issue 6) Best Australian Stories 2013

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