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Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles
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Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  5,164 ratings  ·  523 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.
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Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,164 ratings  ·  523 reviews

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I think the history of Atlas is already known to those who are interested in mythology. I also thought that the comment section of the story was pretty weak.
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Mar 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: uk, 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 kn ...more
Nov 11, 2008 rated it liked it
I felt that this book started off slow and that perhaps it was just Winterson's style that wasn't engaging me. But the story picked up when Heracles came into the picture; and I liked the meditations on fate versus choice, that perhaps we pick our own burdens and 'punishments', that they are not fated, that we can walk away from them when we feel we are 'home.' She even brings her own story into the book, which I liked, though as she'd already used first-person for Atlas' voice, it was a bit con ...more
Jul 24, 2007 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
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
Jan 18, 2011 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
Leah Craig
Jul 11, 2018 rated it liked it
This was very beautifully written. I’m a sucker for any story about Hercules, and he was a bit of a frat boy in this version, but.... accurately, I must admit. Definitely one of my favorites from the Myth series so far!
Jan 18, 2015 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
Renée Paule
One third of the way through this book and I'm discarding it. This is not the intelligent read I thought it would be and that's all I'm prepared to say about it.
Apr 01, 2012 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
Mar 25, 2007 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
Jul 25, 2016 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
Vicky "phenkos"
Jan 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I very much enjoyed the re-working of the myth of Atlas (and a dumb Heracles was a refreshing change) but did Winterson really have to include the auto-biographical bit? It does nothing to enhance the tale, and anyway if the reader wants to know more about her life, I'm sure there are better places to look...
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I've had this on my shelf for a while now. Last year I pulled it out to sit on my "read this year" shelf with my other mythology related books, to read for my "read more mythology" goal that stayed dormant all year. I think the idea that I don't know enough about mythology has not been enough to make me care more about it.

And Jeanette Winterson, one of my favorite authors, has also not succeeded in making me care much more about Atlas and Heracles. Actually I had never heard of Heracles and she
Anwen Hayward
Aug 13, 2014 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
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'
Nov 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: highly-recommend
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
Liz Janet
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.
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
Nov 04, 2007 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
Dec 18, 2012 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.
Nov 06, 2007 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.
Jackie Law
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Why then did the burden feel intolerable? What was it that I carried? I realise now that the past does not dissolve like a mirage. I realise that the future, though invisible, has weight. We are in the gravitational pull of past and future. It takes huge energy – speed of light power – to break that gravitational pull.”

Each time we tell a story from our lives we tell it anew. Aspects may remain but nuances change. Our present is heavy with all that has gone before and all we aspire to become. W
Marlous (agnesnutter_witch)
Will write a review later
Sam Woodward
Aug 30, 2013 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
Mariana Pereira
Weight is an introspective with an intamite and personal take of the myth of Atlas with some Heracles thrown in. The responsibility that Atlas feels of carrying the literal planet Earth on his shoulders and how carefully and meticulously he bears that weight is a train of thought that carried through the entire novella. The insertion of Heracles in the story, and the manner that someone as equally strong physically but not strong-willed as Atlas provides a great dynamic. It’s an intamite and gro ...more
Jan 30, 2008 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 compac ...more
Jan 09, 2008 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 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, quoti ...more
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Both the characters of Atlas and Herakles are given a new light; Atlas in a good way, and Herakles in a bad way. The tale is namely about Atlas though, for we hear from him how the world began, and ultimately feel the passing of time go by even until the age where the gods are no more. Thought-provoking, and somewhat sad, this is a tale for any lover of Greek myths.
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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 assi ...more
“I am good at walking away. Rejection teaches you how to reject.” 546 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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