Weight: The Myth Of Atlas And Heracles
- Canongate Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 06 July 2006
- Myth & Legend told as fiction
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Weight casts Heracles and Atlas as foils to one another, complete opposites in how they approach problems. Heracles is a libertine, who literally pounds thoughts out of his head as infrequently as he has any, and whose main goal in life is to have sex with many women and kill many creatures (including said women). He goes about his legendary twelve tasks mechanically, with some cunning but not much thought. On the other hand, Atlas has nothing to do *but* think as he holds the weight of the world on his shoulders. He is stoic and, at times, melancholy.So how are we called to live? Being burdened by the weight of all the problems of the world is a daunting existence, but so is seeking out mindless carnal pleasures with no meaning behind them. Ultimately salvation comes not from the big conquering forces, but from the small and meek ones; it's the only way humanity can cope with the overwhelming weight of goodness and obligation and desire all tugging life in different directions.
Every word is the best one, every page is my favorite, every idea is the best I've ever heard. This is my favorite novel of all time - and she only wrote it last year. "I want to tell the story again." That's how Winterson opens her astonishing interpretation of the myth of Atlas and Hercules. Altas and Hercules, the two strongest men in the universe, both prisoners to Fate. Hercules is Id, gratifying every urge, exercising every rage, indulging every vanity, smashes his way through life. Atlas is Superego, carrying his outrageous burden because he feels he must, enduring humiliation and isolation because he believes he brought it on himself. Ego floats someone in between them, in the story itself. Ego is Will, ego is Choice...something that Atlas and Hercules both attempt after a lot of soul-searching.Around her central story, she contemplates all the scientific breakthroughs and advances in knowledge we've acquired since the first telling of this story thousands of years ago. And she demonstrates - especially at the end - that you can have modern science and these extraordinary myths at the same time. They coexist because they are both truth, both eternal. And the ending is so powerful I cry just remembering it.Every other week I find myself saying, "I want to read the story again."
Jeanette Winterson is a genius in the world of novelists. She doesn't think quite like you or me. Good thing, too. Her take on two 'good ole boys' of the ancient world shows how well she understands men, deception, personal limits, the surreal, individual integrity in a world of corporate values.
I was a bit nervous about this because I read 'Oranges ...' years ago and wasn't sure I enjoyed it, so have avoided the author ever since. However, having read this, maybe I need to give her another try.I wasn't sure about the 'me' sections, but the bits that were retelling the myth I enjoyed. I think the idea of Heracles as a braggart is spot on and there are wonderful descriptions of the relationship between Earth & Poseidon.Near the very end is a little bit that summed up my feelings on the day that I read it, and I've put it below after lots of returns because it might be a spoiler. Let me crawl out from under this world I have made.It doesn't need me any more.Strangely, I don't need it either. I don't need the weight. Let it go. There are reservations and regrets, but let it go.I want to tell the story again.
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