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Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles (Canongate Myth Series)

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  3,969 Ratings  ·  386 Reviews
“When I was asked to choose a myth to write about, I realized I had chosen already. The story of Atlas holding up the world was in my mind before the telephone call had ended. If the call had not come, perhaps I would never have written the story, but when the call did come, that story was waiting to be written. Rewritten. The recurring language motif of Weight is ‘I want ...more
Hardcover, Canongate Myths, 151 pages
Published October 5th 2005 by Canongate U.S. (first published January 1st 2005)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Dec 26, 2013 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it did not like it
Shelves: literature
This book is a disease-ridden hooker in a business suit. It's a sand pail made of tissue paper. All pretense and no heart, this retelling of centuries old myths features heaping spoonfuls of stereotypes, cliched metaphors, sexist commentary, baseless pomp, and comically bad dialogue. Who tells a person that 'you're my fate...drop dead gorgeous'? Anyone in their right mind would have maniacally cackled in his face rather than let him ejaculate all over them. She's Hera, for fucksake. HERA. She ...more
3.5 stars.

Book 2 of my 2016 Booktube Recommends project - thanks to Jean at BookishThoughts for recommending me this one (and gifting it for my birthday ;D)!

I wasn't very aware of the figure of Atlas in mythology, or in general - I had an image of a man holding up a globe on his back, but that was literally it. And Heracles? Well, I'd seen the 90s Disney film! (psst, it's one of my favourites) So this was definitely one of the Canongate Myths series that I knew I wanted to get to.

After reading
Dec 17, 2009 Donna rated it it was amazing
Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Hercules, Jeanette Winterson. New York: Cannongate, 2005. Hardcover, $18.00 ISBN 1-84195-718-6

Have you ever read someone you're a fan of and thought; there's no way to do it better than this? For me it's Jeanette Winterson, her lyricism, her wide flung knowledge of mythology and science, and humanness and above all else, her risk taking. At the end of each of her books I walk away feeling like she’s left everything on the page the way an athlete leaves everything on
Jun 15, 2011 Nikki rated it it was ok
As always, with Jeannette Winterson's work, there are parts of this that caught at me -- phrases, quotable bites, a scene here and there -- but for the most part I was underwhelmed. More underwhelmed than usual, perhaps. It had a very light, dismissive tone that just didn't work for me, and the characterisation of Heracles as a big idiot just... isn't anything new. That exact character has been given so many names.

Also, weird sex-stuff between Heracles and Hera. Just, what? And weird interludes
May 16, 2015 Ebba rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*5000/5 stars

This book is the definition of perfection. I went into this book, basically only knowing that my favourite author Jeanette Winterson wrote it, and that it had something to do with greek mythology. Since it's Jeanette Winterson, I should probably have been prepared for this mind-blowing "my-life-will-never-be-the-same-again" feeling that I now have in my body, but still I'm amazed and shocked. Where shall I even begin? Okay, let's start with saying that this is a retelling of the gr
Jul 31, 2014 Dan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ugh. What an awful book.

The author wants to tell the story of Heracles and Atlas. Cool. Apparently she thinks she's the first person to make to connection between this ancient tale and the story of Jesus, insofar as interrupting the story with an entire chapter explaining the whole "bearing the weight of the world" emotion. (Though, curiously, she seems to have forgotten about St. Christopher).

She also seems to have learned a new dirty word: "prick". Since Winterson has apparently decided to tu
Apr 05, 2012 Dergrossest rated it it was amazing
I read this book with some trepidation since most remakes of the classics are forgettable, if not insufferable. This is the exception.

Atlas and Heracles are two of the most compelling figures in classic Greek Mythology and this modern re-telling of their stories only makes them more so, although you really need to know their stories before reading this to appreciate what the author has accomplished. She cleverly weaves a scientific thread into their stories to help make them both more modern and
Melissa  Jeanette
Now one of my favorite books of all time. If I could somehow shrink this down into a miniature size, I would wear it as a necklace and keep it near me always. I'm not ready to leave it's universe.

For the rest of you not yet sucked into it's orbit, here are a couple points that may draw you in. It's a quick read, but it is in no way diminished by its easy readability. And when I say it's a quick read, I mean really quick. I'm about the slowest reader on the planet and I read it in 3 1/2 hrs. It'
Mar 31, 2016 Renae rated it really liked it
This book takes on the myth of Atlas and Heracles.

Heracles (Hercules in Greek), being the only one in Greek mythology that can also carry the weight of the world, approaches Atlas for help in completing a task in exchange for some "time-off" for Atlas.

This book is about that myth.

And it isn't.

It is about the weight of the world.
Our own personal burdens, and how nothing can also feel like everything.
It's about how we relate to stories.
Our own intertwined with others, changing a little every
Jul 26, 2016 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I never really liked Jeanette Winterson but after her re-telling of Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, I was curious to read her re-telling of Hercules and Atlas' encounter.

It is excellent - Hercules is portrayed as a sex crazed yob, Atlas as a misunderstood Titan. There's a lot of laughs, something rare in Winterson's novels and the ending took me by surprise. It is tender and delicate and puts our universe, and in a way the whole concept of Atlas, in perspective: It's nothing. (you'll get what I
Liz Janet
Mar 17, 2016 Liz Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do not think I have ever seen a more accurate description of Heracles/Hercules in all of the books I have read about him, he is the perfect misogynist he historically was, and the abhorrence of his person.
Jan 18, 2008 stephanie rated it really liked it
i've been disappointed in winterson lately, but i have always loved her best when she is messing with stories people already know.

she did not let me down. it wasn't fabulous (i could have done without all the scenes of heracles' prick dripping) but the story itself . . . there were lines that made me sooo happy and wish i had written them myself.

i loved the ending especially. laika gets saved! atlas is a fabulous character, and i loved hera in this. i want to read everything in the canongate m
Sam Woodward
Aug 30, 2013 Sam Woodward rated it really liked it
"[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, the 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 b
Nesa Sivagnanam
Feb 28, 2012 Nesa Sivagnanam rated it really liked it
This book is part of Canongate's 'Myth' series, where several writers retell a myth of their own choosing.

Weight, is a "cover version" of the myth of Atlas and Heracles. The Titan Atlas, whose punishment it is to carry the world, literally, on his shoulders, is enlisted by the super-hero Heracles to help retrieve some golden apples, guarded by a dreadful serpent, from the Gardens of the Hesperides. To free Atlas for the task, Heracles must temporarily take over the burden of supporting the worl
Oct 28, 2016 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never really liked Hercules. Okay, I liked the Kevin Sorbo series, but Hercules wasn't my favorite character, and Sorbo's Hercules wasn't the Greek Hercules, not really. There was something about Hercules I never liked. Maybe because he was so self-centered. Maybe because he killed horses. Maybe because I always liked Hera and wanted to take her side in everything. I don't know. I prefered Troy, Jason, Altanta, anything but Hercules.

Winterson makes me feel something about Hercules, not like, t
Jan 09, 2008 Mary rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of lyrical prose
Poets across the world groan at the sheer injustice of Jeanette Winterson's ability with words. If ever anyone could turn a phrase, Winterson can, and so as always, I was thoroughly immersed in her language and her compelling take on a story I thought I knew. Unfortunately, - also as usual - I had trouble relating with major aspects of her characters. (For instance, the fact that Heracles is a serious sex-fiend.) Although I tend to find myself wishing Winterson would tell different stories than ...more
Sep 09, 2007 Rebecca rated it did not like it
I don't like how she played fast and loose with the myths, because instead of rich, layered, and complicated, her versions felt sketchy, thin, and declarative. There are many stand-alone sentences that announce things: Even a goddess is still a woman, I am not a Freudian, Men are unfaithful by nature. Instead of telling us about people in a crisis, she uses her weight to slam us around with her single sentences, each highlighted and set on a separate pedestal. Suitable for framing--I mean, ...more
Dec 04, 2007 Julie rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
When I read Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, I learned that it was part of a series of modern reworkings of myths, and of course I was interested in reading the others. The problem is that I picked up this book thinking of Margaret Atwood, and it was not written by Margaret Atwood. I had trouble getting into it and ended up skimming much of it.
Jan 01, 2013 Pixelina rated it liked it
Retelling of the myth of Atlas, with some Heracles and Prometeus and Hera and Zeus thrown in as well as Laika - the russian space dog. It is a book that had passages that I had to read out aloud cause of the poetry in them, and some rather embarrassing passages I skim-read fast.
It's a short book, a quick read, filled with guts, blood, semen, milk and stars.
Sep 08, 2016 Sophia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sophia by: Alexandra
Πραγματικά ευχαριστήθηκα αυτό το βιβλίο! Πέρα από το μήνυμα που περνάει για τα βάρη που κουβαλάει ο καθένας μας και πόσο τα αφήνουμε να μας επιβαρύνουν, μου άρεσε να διαβάζω μια ιστορία που ξέρω, εμπλουτισμένη με μυθοπλαστικές λεπτομέρειες που όμως βοηθούν το μήνυμα της να είναι πιο εμφανές.
Anwen Hayward
Aug 26, 2014 Anwen Hayward rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-poop-shelf
What a disappointing book. Almost masturbatory in some areas, and I don't just mean the extended bits where Heracles strums his own trumpet - you can actually imagine Winterson writing this and thinking to herself 'oh yeah, that's for the academics, that's the stuff'. Winterson clearly fancies herself up there with the greatest philosophers of all eras, and the texts she produces just don't merit that belief. This book pertains to discuss Atlas' burden as being not a physical burden, but more a ...more
B.R. Sanders
Jul 17, 2015 B.R. Sanders rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Weight by Jeanette Winterson, part of the Canongate Myths collection along with Atwood’s Penelopiad, is a deconstructed retelling of the myth of Atlas. That sentence alone fails to capture the sweep of this slim little volume, or the depth to it. The book is really about the way we use narrative to construct ourselves and our identities.

The two central characters of the book are Atlas, the titan monstrously strong enough to support the entire cosmos, and Heracles, the half-human half-divine hero
Suz Thackston
Sep 18, 2016 Suz Thackston rated it it was amazing
I've had this book kicking around for over a year now, and finally got around to it and am now kicking myself for not reading it sooner. It has wrapped itself snugly around my heart.
I like reinterpretations of ancient myths and folklore and fairy tales when they're well-done, but it's awfully popular these days and far too often NOT well done.
This is beautiful. Simple and poignant, asking huge important questions without ever once being coy or preachy. It's an old Greek myth, but it's also ever
Jul 12, 2010 Zoë rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The strata of sedimentary rock are like the pages of a book, each with a record of contemporary life written on it. Unfortunately, the record is far from complete."

Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles is the first book I have read by Jeanette Winterson. It is unusual in that it is a part of the Myth series, in which contemporary writers (like Winterson and Atwood) reinvent ancient myths- tell the stories again. Weight, as its title indicates, is the Greek myth of Atlas who after leading a r
Arezo gh
Jul 02, 2016 Arezo gh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
بار گران - کتابی که یک روز اتفاقی گوشه ی شهر کتاب مرکزی رفتم و در بحبوحه ی امتحانات و سردرشلوغی ها خریدمش. چرا؟ نه کسی معرفی کرده بود و نه تعداد چاپ هایش زیاد بود. فقط چون اسم قشنگی داشت خریدمش. این همان کتابی است که انتظار داشتم بار هستی از میلان کوندرا باشد - و نبود! بار هستی میلان کوندرا را حتی نتوانستم تمام کنم! اما این کتاب – آمیخته ای از اساطیر قدیم یونان - که جای لطف دارد اگر مثل من در دبیرستان آنها را خوانده باشید- با مفاهیم مدرن چیستی و هستی است.
تعداد پاراگرافهایی از این کتاب که دوست د
Oct 02, 2013 Lizzie rated it liked it
I got this at the same time as The Penelopiad , and started to read it then, but put it down halfway. (I almost never do that!)

This time around I liked it perfectly ok. It is kind of rambly, but often pretty. Eventually I took away one whole star for all the times I had to read about Heracles's erections. No thank you. Then, I got to the chapter "Leaning on the Limits of Myself," a tiny 4-page section in the middle, and I put the star back. That chapter is extraordinary. I didn't expect the fra
Nov 30, 2012 Luis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
La mayor parte de este libro cuenta la historia de cuando Atlas fue revelado de sostener el mundo mientras ayudaba a Heracles a completar una de sus pruebas. El grueso de la historia se adorna al principio con unas pinceladas de la situación de Atlas y al final con más hechos de Heracles hasta su muerte, reflexiones de la autora y un cierre totalmente inventado.

Lo que me desconcierta es que no entiendo muy bien el propósito del libro,quizás porque no he leído nada más de la autora. Si quería exp
Jan 31, 2008 Lia rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary, novels
I really liked this, but it's maybe the sixth or seventh thing I've read by Jeanette Winterson, and I have to admit it's getting a bit same-ish. But if I'd never read any Winterson before I would've thought it fantastic. As it is, I found it a little padded. I loved the core story, of Atlas and Heracles, but apart from the introduction the autobiographical meta chapters seemed unnecessary. Although very short already (I finished it in my tram ride to the city and back) I think it could be ...more
Feb 07, 2009 Sparring rated it really liked it
"I built a walled garden, a temenos, a sacred space. I lifted the huge stones with my hands and piled them carefully, as a goatherd would, leaving tiny gaps to let the wind through. A solid wall is easily collapsed...A wall well built with invisible spaces will allow the winds that rage against it to pass through. When the earth underneath it trembles, the spaces make room for movement and settlement. The wall stands. The walls strength is not in the stones but in the spaces between the stones. ...more
Apr 14, 2008 Terence rated it really liked it
Recommended to Terence by: Winterson interview on Bill Moyer's Journal
One of the marks of an "important" book is that you know you'll have to read it several times to figure out everything it has to say to you. Weight is one of those books. In my first reading of the book, I think the most important theme I pulled from it is that people make their own fates. Both Atlas and Heracles could have put down their burdens and walked away at any time.

Now I'll have to read it again to figure out how Laika fits into everything.
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Novelist Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester, England in 1959. She was adopted and brought up in Accrington, Lancashire, in the north of England. Her strict Pentecostal Evangelist upbringing provides the background to her acclaimed first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, published in 1985. She graduated from St Catherine's College, Oxford, and moved to London where she worked as an ...more
More about Jeanette Winterson...

Other Books in the Series

Canongate Myth Series (1 - 10 of 18 books)
  • A Short History of Myth
  • The Penelopiad
  • The Helmet of Horror: The Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur
  • Lion's Honey: The Myth of Samson
  • Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams
  • Anna In w grobowcach świata
  • Girl Meets Boy
  • Binu and the Great Wall
  • Where Three Roads Meet: The Myth of Oedipus
  • Baba Yaga Laid an Egg

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“I am good at walking away. Rejection teaches you how to reject.” 477 likes
“What is it that you contain? The dead. Time. Light patterns of millennia opening in your gut. Every minute, in each of you, a few million potassium atoms succumb to radioactive decay. The energy that powers these tiny atomic events has been locked inside potassium atoms ever since a star-sized bomb exploded nothing into being. Potassium, like uranium and radium, is a long-lived radioactive nuclear waste of the supernova bang that accounts for you.

Your first parent was a star.”
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